Poll: Nearly half of Jewish Israelis support IDF’s transformation into professional army

Nearly half of Jewish Israelis support an end to compulsory conscription and the transformation of the Israel Defense Forces into a voluntary and professional army, according to a new investigation by the Israel Institute of Democracy released Tuesday.

The idea, which has caught on in Israel in recent years, is now more popular than continuing the so-called People’s Army model – the first time this has been the case since the IDI began following it. public opinion on the issue in 2017.

The poll, which was released Tuesday ahead of the National Security and Democracy Think Tank conference, asked around 1,000 adult respondents a number of questions about the military and its role in Israeli society. About 80 percent of those surveyed were Jewish Israelis and about 20 percent were Arab Israelis.

The vast majority of Israeli Jewish respondents gave the IDF “good” or “excellent” ratings for issues more explicitly related to the military, 80% giving these ratings for operational capabilities and 77% for “ethical conduct in combat. “. Among Israeli Arabs surveyed, only about a third gave the IDF a positive rating for its ethics.

Most Jewish Israelis do not see the IDF’s ethical conduct as necessarily a positive thing, with 72% of them stating that compliance with international law “makes it more difficult for it to carry out its security duties,” according to the IDF. ‘investigation. This was a very partisan issue, with 81% of people identifying themselves as right-wing and 69% of centrists agreeing with this statement, while only 33% of people on the left did.

Likewise, a minority of people on the right, 29%, said that international law should always be respected even if it has a negative effect on military operations, while 70% of people on the left said they believed in this way.

In terms of partisanship, Jewish Israelis increasingly seem to believe that the policies of senior IDF officers are at odds with theirs. Barely half of those polled – 55% – said the values ​​held by the IDF’s senior command match those held by the general public. Two years ago, nearly three-quarters of Jewish Israelis believed IDF commanders had the same values ​​as the general public.

On fiscal and social issues, the military received more average marks, with less than a third of Jewish Israelis saying the IDF manages its budget and finances in a “good” or “excellent” manner. and only a quarter giving a positive assessment of the IDF. treatment of soldiers and their personal problems. Just over 40% of Jewish Israelis rated the military as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ for gender equality, but it was divided somewhat on the basis of men and women, 37% of women assigning a positive rating to the IDF, while 50% of the men did so.

The People’s Army?

The IDF’s role as the “people’s army” in which all Israelis are expected to serve has long been viewed as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this ensured that Israel’s best and brightest served in the military, while otherwise they might have gone straight to college or the job market, while on the other On the other hand, it also meant that the military was responsible for caring for the socio-economic well-being of people, including those in need of major assistance. It also meant that sometimes the IDF was a bloated organization, with more manpower than it needed in certain areas.

In recent years, the IDF’s status as a “people’s army” has come into question anyway, as only about half of all potential recruits end up enlisting in the military each year. The rest are either Arab or ultra-Orthodox – and therefore exempt – or they are religious women – and instead perform national service – or they are otherwise excused, normally for health reasons or other extenuating circumstances.

According to the survey, 47% of Jewish Israelis believe in the cancellation of the project, against 42% who oppose it. In 2019, the last time the question was asked, 41% of Jewish Israelis supported the IDF’s transformation into a professional army, while 46.5% opposed it. In 2017, 38% supported the end of the project, against 59% who opposed it.

“The fact that 47% of the Jewish population believe that compulsory conscription should be abolished and that the IDF should be transformed into a professional fighting force is very problematic and has the potential to create a real security crisis”, Yohanan Plesner, chairman of ‘Israel. Democracy Institute said in a statement with the publication of the poll.

“Convincing our best and brightest to serve in a professional army will require unprecedented salaries and benefits, and even then, it will not necessarily attract the amount of high-quality personnel the IDF needs. We may find ourselves in a situation where a small minority of idealists serve in the military alongside those who have chosen to join for lack of better employment options, ”he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has also spoken out against the possibility of a professional army, but said earlier this year that if the country does not find a better model for universal conscription it will have no other choice than to convert to a voluntary army.

Gantz advocated the creation of a truly universal project, in which ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis will be required to perform some form of national service, although this is expected to meet stiff resistance from these two communities.

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