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Gov’t backs bill to up age limit for IDF reserve service

"No way around" upping the retirement age of reservists, say senior Likud officials • Lapid: "The reservists and taxpayers collapse and Netanyahu and the extremists put the burden on them."

Reservists of the Israel Defense Forces' new "LOTAR Otef" counterterror force during a ceremony for the unit's establishment, June 3, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Reservists of the Israel Defense Forces' new "LOTAR Otef" counterterror force during a ceremony for the unit's establishment, June 3, 2024. Credit: IDF.

The Israeli government on Sunday backed a new bill that would delay by a year the retirement age for Israel Defense Forces reservists.

Initially on the docket of items to be voted on at the Cabinet meeting, the forum passed it on to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which approves legislation prior to its introduction and vote in the Knesset plenum.

The bill, which is supported by the Defense Ministry, calls for reservists who are not officers to serve until 41 instead of 40, and officers until 46 instead of 45. Reservists in special units will have to serve until 50 instead of 49.

According to the bill’s explanatory note, it is a “temporary order” stemming from the “immediate need, the scope of the tasks and the lack of possibility to meet this operational need by other means—since the removal of those reservists from the order of the military forces during the fighting may cause damage to the competence and continuity of the units’ functioning, in particular in relation to the combat units.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the move, saying, “Shame is lost. The reservists and the taxpayers collapse and Netanyahu and the extremists put the burden on them and continue to evade responsibility and smile.”

The decision comes less than a week after the Knesset approved the advancement of a bill lowering the age of exemption for ultra-Orthodox Israelis, while creating small quotas for service.

The bill would lower the age of exemption from mandatory service for haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, yeshivah students from 26 to 21, in an effort to get more haredi men to enter the labor force.

It would also gradually increase haredi enlistment, setting an ultra-Orthodox conscription target of 35% of male students by 2036.

If the targets are not met, noncompliant yeshivas will face large fines.

Senior Likud officials, who also oppose the bill deferring reservists’ retirement age, told JNS that the draft legislation is being driven by need. The government and the army really have no choice, he said.

“We need fighters now, and even if we drafted the Haredim it would take at least eight months [for them to] be combat ready,” the officials said. “There’s just no way around it.”

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