By Erin Viner
The Prime Minister announced the salary increase during his weekly Cabinet session, saying, “This is the very least that can be done for those who are doing so much for us.”
Military service is compulsory for all Jewish Israelis of both genders over the age of 18, although exceptions may be granted on religious, physical or psychological grounds. While male members of the Druze minority are also inducted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Arab citizens are not compelled to serve. Young men are recruited for 32 months of service, while young women are inducted for 24 months on average or up to 36 dependent on selected troop assignment. All combat roles by both males and females are voluntary.
As soldiers are provided with all necessary housing, clothing, food, medical treatment and other necessary items, they are ‘paid’ only what is viewed as ‘supplemental’ payments for usage while on leave.
The salary increase is the first since 2017, resulting from long-delayed government approval of the state budget – at a ₪900 million shekel ($284m or almost €252.5m) cost financed out of allotment to the Ministries of Defense and Finance.
Troops on the front lines will see “a steep jump” in monthly wages from about ₪1,600 shekels (about $506 or €449) to ₪2,400 (about $758 or €673), said Prime Minister Bennett, who commanding many combat operations during his distinguished IDF service in the Sayeret Matkal and Maglan Special Forces units.
Non-combat soldiers will see an increase from ₪800 ($253 or €224) today to ₪ 1,200 ($379 or €336).
During the 3rd and final year of service, monthly wages for combat soldiers will be increased to ₪3,048 ($963 or €855), combat-support troops will receive ₪1,793 ($566 or €503) and those doing administrative work will get ₪1,235 ($390 or €346).
It is nevertheless interesting to comparatively note – and startling for many, considering the risks to the lives of the nation’s youth serving in the army – that Israel’s minimum wage level is set at ₪5,300 ($1,675 or €1,487).
“We want to thank the soldiers and increasing their salaries is our way of doing so. Thank you to those who see the privilege of compulsory service, to those who give years of their lives to defend the State of Israel. Without you, without each and every one who took buses this morning back to another week at the base, we would not be here. This is the truth,” underscored the Israeli leader.
While acknowledging “a complicated reality” in which “very large groups of the population that simply do not serve, young men and women who have been taught not to take part in the burden of defending the security of the state,” Bennett went on to say that “those who do serve must receive from us, as a society, all of the preferences and gratitude possible.”
In a direct message to the nation’s troops, Prime Minister Bennett stressed: “Dear soldiers, when you look at your pay slip this week, know that this is our way, of Israeli society as a whole, of thanking you.”
“The people’s army is the guarantee for Israel’s security, and we must cherish the soldiers who serve in it said when the measures were approved. Soldiers are the source of the IDF’s power. Every soldier is a valuable asset and caring for them is our obligation,” commented IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on the wage increase.