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7,000 Soldiers Desert Israeli Army Annually | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli soldiers near the Golan Heights. (AFP)

Tel Aviv – New figures announced by the Israeli army revealed on Wednesday the failure of its plan to reduce the number of desertions.

The figures showed that some 7,000 soldiers desert the army, either due to illness or faking an illness, before the end of their military service.

According to the Manpower Directorate in the army, one in seven soldiers in 2016 did complete their military service, were discharged or expelled, said a military source.

The phenomenon of desertion is increasing despite Israeli attempts to limit it.

Desertions by male soldiers reached 14.6 percent and 7.5 percent among females, which are the same figures as 2015.

A high-ranking Israeli officer said: “We are speaking of a high number of desertions from the army, which is losing thousands of soldiers every year due to this phenomenon.”

“We are determined to combat it and reduce it by 60 to 70 percent,” he vowed,

A prominent security source explained that health reasons, such as psychological problems, are the main cause of desertions.

Such reasons however are not acceptable in Israel, with observers asking: “Is one seventh of the army suffering from mental diseases? Such excuses are used to escape the military.”

The source revealed that the army had prepared a plan to tighten conditions that allow the release of soldiers from service due to psychological problems. The plan however did not yield the desired results of reducing desertions.

The military is currently studying other plans.

The official army spokesman tried to attribute the desertions to the soldiers’ “dissatisfaction with the military unit that they had joined.”

Such a statement has failed to hide the Israeli army command’s major concern, especially in wake of the decision to reduce the period of military service from 36 to 32 months.

These concerns will be compounded with the further reduction of the service to 30 months by 2020. The military has therefore turned its attention to the Arab Bedouin and Orthodox Haredi Jewish to meet the demand.