Professional Opinion

Military Service Law and Reserve Service Law Amendments (extension of mandatory and reserve service period): Professional Opinion

The government wishes to amend the Military Service Law and Reserve Service Law due to the new security circumstances arising from the outbreak of the war in Gaza. While recognizing the immediate imperative to respond to IDF's personnel needs, we oppose these legislative proposals.

Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

1. On January 18, 2024, the following legislative memoranda were published for public comments:

    1. Military Service Law (Amendment no. …), 2024-5784, proposing to extend the period of mandatory service for men to a default length of 3'6 months (henceforth: the Mandatory Service Law Memorandum);
    2. Reserve Service Law (Amendment no. …), 2024-5784, proposing to extend the periods of time for which reservists can be called up for duty and to raise the age of exemption from reserve service (henceforth: the Reserve Service Law Memorandum);

According to the explanatory notes to these memoranda, the government wishes to enact the amendments due to the new security circumstances created following the outbreak of the war between Israel and the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which “require a significant operational response for defense and for the continued war effort in all sectors.” This includes an increase in the number of military personnel available to the IDF.

2. The State of Israel is currently experiencing one of the most difficult periods in its history, following the horrific attacks of October 7th by the Hamas terror organization. These attacks, and the events that followed them, naturally require additional military personnel. While recognizing it is essential to provide an immediate response to the IDF’s personnel needs, we oppose these legislative memoranda, for the following reasons:

    1. The substantive arrangements they propose create a heavier burden of military service in the long term, which will be placed on the population that already perform mandatory and reserve service, while unconstitutionally increasing the inequality between this population and those that do not serve. They further give decisive weight to security considerations over other relevant and essential considerations—particularly the economic, social, and organizational implications of the proposed arrangements, including their consequences for the “people’s army” model. They do so without sufficiently examining the possibilities for realizing the military service potential among other population groups, with an emphasis on Haredi men, as well other alternatives.
    2. The Ministry of Defense’s attempt to enact these amendments is based on an internal decision-making process within the defense establishment, which does not allow for the examination of the various considerations and data on which the proposed arrangements are based, and does not include the involvement of external experts in the relevant fields, nor any meaningful public debate.

3. In our view, deciding the scale of the burden of military service for the long term, both mandatory and reserve, requires the formation of a professional committee, external to the defense establishment, with expertise in the relevant issues. Such a committee can weigh all the pertinent considerations and consequences, including the relevant normative, economic, social and organizational aspects. Such a committee should also discuss the required benefits for the population serving in the reserve forces.

4. The attempt to separate the issue of increasing the burden of service on those who already serve and the question of the conscription of Haredi men should be rejected. The two issues are intertwined. In fact, the proposed amendments expand the inequalities between the population that already serve and those that do not. If the current conscription arrangement of Haredi men has been established as creating an unconstitutional breach of the equality principle, then it is clear that the proposed amendments create an unconstitutional arrangement.

5. In the very short term, the IDF’s immediate personnel needs must be met.

    1. This can be based temporarily on extending the period of mandatory service for relevant service personnel and increasing the burden on reservists. However, the harm to service personnel should be kept to the minimum required, both in terms of the scale of the additional burden placed on these groups, and in terms of the period of time for which the arrangements made will be valid.
    2. Similarly, other possible alternatives must be examined and exhausted, such as allowing mandatory service personnel to volunteer for an additional service period as career soldiers, and promoting the additional use of section 8 draft orders. It is improper to increase the burden of military service based merely on practical considerations related to ease of implementation.
    3. A differential period of mandatory service should be set and parameters drawn up for shortening the service of some service personnel, subject to parliamentary approval.
    4. Arrangements for the immediate term should be determined by a professional committee external to the defense establishment as well, as proposed above.


*    Read the full document    *