In a national security studies conference held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the head of the Israeli army’s Planning Division, General Nimrod Sheffer, revealed that Israeli army combat units are now no more than half the size they were 30 years ago.
According to Sheffer, enlistment rates have decreased, 70 per cent of the 700,000 IDF soldiers are reservists and only 3 per cent – 5 per cent of soldiers are considered ‘professional soldiers’ – a very low percentage compared to other countries.
He also said that there was a gap of thousands between the number of soldiers needed and the current situation.
He added that low enlistment rates constitute a social challenge for the state; a challenge that they feel “in daily practice”, and highlighted a decrease in the number of soldiers in both the cyber unit and the unit that operates the Iron Dome.
Sheffer said that there were not enough resources to activate an army of the size the Israeli army was previously, but that it would be better to become smaller and more efficient. He added that the army is ready to make deep and substantial changes including reducing the size of its forces.
As for the expected cuts in the defence budget, he said that the budget for 2013 was not flexible and that there is no possibility for change from year to year. “It is not feasible for us to plan only one year ahead. You cannot run the military with a 12 month budget – only a long term one. What such cuts will immediately affect is military operations – not structure or wages,” he said.
He added that a reduction in the military budget would immediately affect the activities of the army.
Regarding the weakness of the regular armies in the neighbouring Arab states, Sheffer said “Syria’s collapse doesn’t mean we can allow a weakening of the IDF’s military capabilities. We can’t allow for a long military campaign that includes the enemy firing at the home front.”