Is There a Motivation Crisis in Military Recruitment in Israel?

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During the summer of 2007, public opinion in Israel was inflamed over figures released by the Israel Defence Forces, according to which 25 percent of potential Jewish male draftees do not take part in military service, while the numbers among women are even higher. These figures were at odds with the public's and the military command's expectations that the efforts to rehabilitate the army following the weakness it had displayed in the Second Lebanon War would increase the motivation for recruitment. To what extent do these figures really testify to the emergence of a military-society crisis in general and a motivation crisis in recruitment in particular? This article tackles this question. By drawing on updated scholarship it is argued that: (1) there has been a gradual but systematic 'motivation drop', not necessarily a sudden 'crisis' in the willingness for military sacrifice, which stems from a broader cultural change, central to which is the declining status of the IDF in a liberalized, market-oriented society and the diminishment of the sense of external threats to the state; (2) the drop is not a general trend but mainly a middle class syndrome that is evident in a political-cultural decline in the legitimization of sacrifice. This decline has three main effects: a) an increase in military exemptions, primarily among groups that occupy opposite poles of the social spectrum; b) the contractualization of soldier-military relations including the development of bargaining patterns between the draftees and the IDF; c) a decrease in the middle class' participation rates in field units.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-158
Number of pages24
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009

RAMBI publications

  • Israel -- Social conditions
  • Israel -- Tseva haganah le-Yiśraʼel


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