The reserve forces are one of the pillars of Israeli national security, one of the most important forces on which the Israeli war machine relies, and they form the backbone of the occupation army in times of emergency.
The roots of the Israeli Reserve Army go back to the early days of the establishment of the state, and the state of conflict between it and many neighboring Arab countries, and the newly emerging entity in the region relied heavily on volunteers who fought during the Nakba period.
Over time – according to a study by the Palestinian Center for Israeli Studies – these volunteers became the nucleus and an essential part of the military strategy, and this force became the focus of a consensus that was exempt from criticism and was not affected by political or partisan conflicts within Israel, to the point that it was called “Israel’s sacred cow.”
The Israeli army's doctrine is based on the theory of “a nation under arms,” which means general conscription of men and women with some exceptions.
Types of military service in the occupation army:
- Compulsory service: It is imposed on everyone who holds Israeli citizenship upon reaching the age of 18 (with the exception of most Palestinians from areas 48, as well as some religious Jews). Males serve for a period of 32 months, while women serve for only two years.
- Fixed military service: It includes all Israelis who see the army as their fixed place of work, and instead of being discharged after the end of their compulsory service, their status is confirmed as active fighters, and the number of occupation army forces is about 173 thousand soldiers.
- Reserve Army: It consists of about 500,000 Israelis, who were discharged from service after the end of the compulsory conscription period.
- Reserve service in Israel is part of the national military doctrine and is stipulated in law.
- Reserve soldiers are called up every year to receive training and maintain their military readiness.
- If this call happens to come while waging wars, they engage in battles directly.
- The law sets the annual reserve service period at 54 days for soldiers, and a maximum of 84 days for officers.
- The law stipulates that reserves can be called for quick security duties, and this period is limited to 25 days at most.
- The Minister of Defense has the right to increase the frequency of call-ups in emergency situations.
- The Israeli Reserve Army makes up approximately 70% of all conscripts.
- Most recruits in this category of the army are between 30-45 years old.
- The percentage of officers is about 17% of the reserve forces.
- The remuneration for reserve soldiers amounts to about $60 per day, and may rise to about $300 for officers, and is given to them in exchange for leaving their work and social life.
- In the Israeli aggression on Gaza, about 360,000 of these forces were called in, which is the first time that a large number has been called in since the 1973 war.
Reserves of other nationalities:
- Israeli laws allow dual citizenship for Israelis, and it is proven that a large percentage of Israelis have another nationality, which naturally applies to reserve forces.
- During the war on Gaza, tens of thousands of reserve soldiers were called from outside Israel, from the United States, from many European countries, and from Latin American countries.
- The participation of foreigners with Israeli citizenship in the war on Gaza sparked reactions in France, South Africa, and elsewhere.
- French MP Thomas Porte called for investigations to be opened into more than 4,000 French nationals on the front lines in Gaza, within the Israeli army.
- Authorities in South Africa have threatened to strip citizenship from those involved in a war the country does not support.
- The so-called “lone soldiers” who volunteer to join the Israeli army, without having family in Israel, join the army.
- Israeli army data indicate that thousands of new immigrants have joined the Israeli army as lone soldiers, or soldiers who do not live with their families, and they obtain Israeli citizenship, unlike mercenary soldiers.
- The Lone Soldiers Center defines on its website a “lone soldier” as an army soldier who does not have a family in Israel to support him: he is either a new immigrant, or a volunteer from abroad, or an orphan, or a member of a broken home.
- There are more than 7,000 lone soldiers – according to the center – currently serving in the Israeli army, about 45% of whom are recent immigrants, and 50% are Israeli orphans, or who come from low social and economic backgrounds.
Lack of homogeneity:
The discrepancies between the components of the reserve forces in the Israeli army pose a problem for the authorities, and the lack of homogeneity appears through:
- Varying combat readiness.
- They come from different social backgrounds.
- Different ages.
- Different jobs.
- Each one has his own life.
Calling up the reserve force has a significant impact on public life and the economic situation in Israel. Among the quick effects that appeared during the war on Gaza are:
- The direct cost of reserve days for conscripts is approximately $1.3 billion per month.
- The cost of lost workdays to reservists is estimated at half a billion dollars per month.
- The shekel price fell, and Israeli banks pumped about 30 billion dollars in order to restore the health of the economy.
- Arms factories rely heavily on engineers and an Army Reserve workforce.
- Life changes dramatically, as the economy becomes a war economy, and the army becomes a priority in everything, whether food, fuel, or even road traffic.
- There is a state of general alert, even doctors in hospitals are being recruited for service, and replacements are being sought.
- The emergency law is imposed and everyone is subject to military instructions and laws.
- All aspects of economic life are affected, and tourism is suffering from a recession. Because tourists are reluctant to visit a country in a declared state of war.
- Perhaps if the emergency period extends to a certain extent, there will be high prices and food shortages.
- The Israeli is affluent and does not want to live a life of emergency and war that would change his daily behavior.
- Citizens’ complaints may push them to demand the overthrow of the Netanyahu government, which did not provide them with security, according to their point of view.
- Israel remains silent about the numbers of foreign mercenaries fighting in its army, but allows them to make press statements to encourage those seeking money to join its army.
- Thousands of mercenaries are fighting in the ranks of the Israeli army of different nationalities, according to press and political reports.
- The Spanish newspaper “El Mundo” published an interview with a Spanish mercenary in the Israeli army, which was the most prominent evidence of Tel Aviv's use of an army of mercenaries, in exchange for 3,900 euros per week.