Israel considering future '48 Palestinian military conscription: report

Israel considering future '48 Palestinian military conscription: report
The Israeli army chief of staff said this week that the heavy strain on the military from the war on Gaza has prompted a review of conscription terms.
3 min read
15 February, 2024
The current war has seen 570 Israeli troops killed and has prompted a review into military conscription [Getty]

Israel’s army chief has said that Israelis from "all parts of society" should be called up for military service as the country looks to bolster its capabilities in its ongoing war on Gaza, raising concerns that Palestinian citizens of Israel could be drafted for the first time.

Herzi Halevi, the army chief of staff, said that the strain on Israeli forces in the war on the Palestinian enclave has led to a review of conscription regulations.

All Israeli nationals who are Jewish, Druze or Circassian over the age of 18 are required to serve in the military, with some notable exceptions. 

Until now Palestinian citizens of Israel, religious women, ultra-Orthodox Jews, as well as those deemed medically unfit, have been exempt.  

However, Halevi said that the war in Gaza has presented a "historic opportunity" to expand the army’s recruitment sources at a time when the need is "very high".

"This is a different time, and prior realities should be re-examined," he said in comments reported in Israeli media this week.

“We are currently promoting immediate enlistment solutions in order to fill our ranks in light of the ongoing fighting. More of this will be required in the future."

Particular denominations of ultra-Orthodox Jews, including Haredi Jews, refuse military service on religious grounds as they believe they should spend all time studying the Torah, the holiest book in Judaism.

Palestinians in Israel - who stayed on their land following Israel's creation in 1948 - makeup around 20 percent of the population and have always been excluded from military conscription.

However, this is not enshrined in law and a very small proportion still choose to enlist.

Men are expected to serve for at least 32 months while for women it's a minimum of two years.

Rights groups say that Palestinian citizens of Israel face regular discrimination including access to jobs and services.

The current war, which has seen 570 Israeli troops killed, has prompted a review into the process, with Israeli military officials reportedly considering ways to buoy up its forces after months of heavy fighting. 

"This war demonstrates the need for change; to join the service, to protect our home," Halevi said. 

“We have a historic opportunity to expand the IDF’s recruitment sources at a time when the necessity is very high," he added.

The proposal includes raising the retirement age for soldiers and officers and extending the minimum service period. This would see reservists retiring at the age of 45, officers at 50, and specialists at 52.

The Israeli military called up some 287,000 reservists for duty on the outbreak of war in October, making it the largest call up in its history. 

However, there have been a handful of conscientious objectors, mostly young Israelis, who have refused to partake in the war on Gaza and have been sent to military prison as a result.