IDF Nahal Brigade soldiers (file)
IDF Nahal Brigade soldiers (file) Mendy Hechtman/Flash 90

The IDF appears to have shot itself in the foot, with a decision to shorten the period of men's mandatory service to 32 months, from 36 months. The decision was foisted on the military by the Knesset, for reasons that appear to have come straight out of the March of Folly, and the new law goes into force on Monday.

A senior officer in the IDF's Personnel Division said Sunday that the law means that that the IDF will eventually have 6,000 soldiers less than it currently has. Of these, 2,500 are combat soldiers.

The problem will reach peak levels between 2018 and 2021, she added.

The decision to shorten men's service was made by the Shaked Committee – a Knesset committee that was headed by MK Ayelet Shaked during the previous government's term, in order to deal with the demands by secularist Yesh Atid for military service by haredi men.

As part of a feminist-inspired drive toward equality between women and men, the IDF also presented the committee with a plan to shorten men's service from 36 to 32 months, and lengthen women's service from 24 months to 28 months.

However, pressure from the same women's organizations that called for equality between the sexes also prevented the lengthening of women's service, and so the IDF wound up shooting itself in the foot by creating an artificial shortage in soldiers, including warriors.

Some of the shortage is to be made up by adding a four-month period of service to combat soldiers in units deemed crucial. These soldiers will receive “keva,” or professional army terms, as opposed to the poor pay received by soldiers in mandatory service.

The IDF also plans to shorten training courses to make maximal use of the soldiers' shortened service. Needless to say, this will probably mean the soldiers will be less well-trained.

As for haredi soldiers – the new coalition is expected to undo the criminal sanctions on haredi youths who evade military service, although this was the main purpose of the Shaked Committee to begin with. As of 2014, the officer said, the IDF had 2,226 haredi solders, and the goal for next year is to reach 2,700.

New mixed-gender battalion

Meanwhile, the IDF is poised to establish one or two new mixed-gender battalions, which will be permanently based along Israel's borders on routine patrol and observation missions.

The new battalion or battalions will join the existing Karakal mixed-gender battalion, and the new Arayot Hayarden battalion, which is still in its formative stages.

The establishment of the new battalions with female members is reportedly linked to the decision to shorten the period of mandatory military service for men.

Another reason for establishing the new battalions is a concept according to which units that are meant for actual wartime combat should be freed up for training instead of carrying out routine patrol and observation assignments. These battalions will only be deployed along "peaceful borders," and will be replaced by “real” combat battalions in times of escalation and war.

'It's all a bluff'

However, the Head of the IDF Fortitude Forum, Col. (res.) Raz Sagi, told Arutz Sheva there is a lot of bluffing and leftist meddling behind the changes announced. 

The idea of creating specialized units for the “softer” combat routine of patrolling and observation along peaceful borders, so as to let the fighting combat battalions spend more time training, is not a bad one, he opined.

“But it also means that from now on, the security along the borders of the country will be in the hands of mixed-gender battalions that are not operationally fit, and in which the level of operational fitness has been lowered beneath the minimum required.”

Sagi noted recently that with ISIS on Israel's northern and southern border, this seems like a recipe for disaster.