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Forward March: IDF combat trainees
Photo: AFP
Number of volunteers for combat service reaches 4-year low
Thousands of Israeli youths wear unifrom for first time Sunday morning, but IDF statistics indicate significant drop in motivation to serve in combat units

Sunday morning marked the beginning of the November army draft, and according to military sources, the number of inductees requesting to serve in combat units has reached the lowest point in four years.

 

"The statistics do not point to decreased motivation, but rather to relative stability over the last few years," army sources told Ynet. But not all are in agreement. "Whoever closes his eyes to this now will wake up in a few years-time to even lower levels of motivation," said one senior officer.

 

The draft that began this morning will continue for a few weeks. Thousands of soldiers will join the ranks of the infantry, armored, engineering, artillery, and field intelligence corps. The IDF utilizes detailed reports to analyze the percentage of those inductees with a combat profile (based on physical and mental tests) who request combat duty.

 

Statistics from the current draft indicate a trend-reversal: 67% of those with a combat profile expressed the desire to serve in the aforementioned units, in contrast to 69% in 2004-2005 and the record high 70.8% after last summer's war in Lebanon.

 

Some in the IDF do not believe that the new statistics should be cause for concern. An official memo from the IDF Spokesperson's Unit claimed that the high number of those requesting combat duty points to high motivation to serve and statistical stability.

 

"We have seen numbers like these in the past and some even lower," an IDF source explained. "The numerical gap is a small one, and does not necessarily reflect a serious problem."

 

Something is happening in society

Despite this relative optimism, a careful perusal of the statistics does not bode well for the IDF. After the record high draft of November 2006, the percentage of inductees requesting combat duty has dropped every draft period, especially between March and August of this year, when it fell over two percent.

 

"I recommend that we not view this as a small statistical aberration," warned one IDF senior officer in a conversation with Ynet. "Something is happening in society, and it is affecting young people awaiting the draft."

 

According to the same officer, the statistics bespeak three worrying trends:

 

  1. An increase in the number of those who are not drafted, mostly "draft dodgers."
  2. A decrease in manpower available to the IDF, resulting from a significant decrease in the extent of immigration to Israel.
  3. A decrease in motivation to serve in combat units.

 

"We cannot ignore this; otherwise we will find ourselves with more draft-dodgers than inductees, especially in combat duty, the most crucial type of service."

 

Another senior military source told ynet that "these statistics only illustrate the extent of the challenge that stands before Israeli society to encourage service and reward those who serve as combat soldiers both in active duty and the reserves."

 

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