IDF looks to West to boost recruitment

The Israeli army hopes that a boost in immigration from Western countries, especially America, Canada and Britain, will help it overcome a shortfall in recruitment.

The IDF and Jewish organisations are planning new recruitment drives based on forecasts that larger numbers of immigrants from Western countries will arrive in Israel over the next decade — and on upcoming projects helping Jews in the 18-23 age group make aliyah.

“We are co-ordinating this effort with the Jewish Agency,” said Major General Avi Zamir, the commander of the IDF personnel department at a briefing last week. “They believe that in the next few years, we will see more olim from countries like America and Britain and we are working on programmes that will make it easier for them to join the IDF.”

The Jewish Agency is predicting that immigration to Israel from the West will go up in reaction to the antisemitism that has swept through Europe after the Gaza operation. Now that the potential for immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia has been largely exhausted, it also hopes to reap dividends from the shift in focus and resources to English-speaking countries.

“I am not sure whether these forecasts are not largely wishful thinking,” said one sceptical official at the Jewish Agency. “But since we are mainly adapting existing programmes, it makes sense to be prepared.”

The IDF does not publish recruitment figures, but it has highlighted two key reasons for the shortfall: the rise in young Israelis who are not joining up for religious reasons — 11 per cent of male Jewish 18-year-olds in Israel exempted themselves from military service last year — and that immigration from the former Soviet Union has petered out.

    Last updated: 12:42pm, March 17 2009