Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Israel

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Israel, 2001, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 6,101,000
    – under-18s: 2,031,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 172,500
    – reserves: 425,000
    – paramilitary: 8,050
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 17
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 17
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC; ILO 138
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as recruitment is possible under 18. The government is considering changes that would end the "early admission" of conscripts and the deployment of under-18s.


Israel has militarily occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights since 1967. Israel agreed to transfer most administrative responsibilities for civil government in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the May 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement and the September 1995 Interim Agreement. Israel withdrew from its occupation of a 'security zone' in southern Lebanon in 2000. Renewed conflict began in September 2000 with clashes between various Palestinian factions and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), as well as demonstrations by unarmed Palestinian civilians dubbed the 'Al-Aqsa Intifada'.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Section 4 of Israel's Basic Law on "The Army" adopted on 31 March 1976 states, "The duty of serving in the Army and recruitment for the Army shall be prescribed by or by virtue of Law."969 The legal basis of conscription in Israel is the 1986 National Defense Service Law. Interviews and assessments for military service begin at age 16, call up occurs formally at 17 with a medical examination, and military service begins at the age of 18. However some applications for early admission are accepted from the age of 17 and some months.970 Israel accepts voluntary recruits from the age of 17.

Officers serve 48 months. Male non-officers serve 36 months and female non-officers serve 21 months. Reserve duty, which was increased again during the Al-Aqsa intifada, is obligatory for men and certain categories of women.971 New immigrants are subject to the same terms of conscription when they reach 18. Older immigrants are required to serve shorter periods of military service.972 Each year 90 per cent of all Israelis who turn 18 are drafted. Ultra-Orthodox students studying at religious schools are usually exempt from military service. Other students may defer military service or combine it with their studies. Conscientious objectors are not excused and may be sentenced to prison for refusal to perform military service.

The minimum physical and educational standards for conscription are low so that the maximum number of conscripts are able to perform some form of service in the IDF, although it is reported that more than 20 per cent are discharged early on physical or psychological grounds.973 Parental permission to join the IDF is needed for the sons and brothers of soldiers who have died in service.

Minorities serve in one of the specialised units: the Minorities Unit, the Druze Reconnaissance Unit and the Trackers Unit, which consist mostly of Bedouin Arabs. The intelligence corps and the air force are closed to minorities. Christian and Muslim Arabs are exempt from compulsory military service but some volunteer, particularly the Bedouin. Israel's Druze and Muslim Circassian minorities, on the other hand, are subject to conscription.

Child Recruitment

Minors are recruited into the IDF but the number of such recruits is not known. The Yediot Achronot newspaper pictured the IDF's youngest officer on 4 March 2001: "After she celebrated her 18th birthday Maayan Carpi got her rank as officer. Maayan ... is now the youngest officer in the IDF and in the history of the army. Maayan skipped a class and was drafted at 17½. She's in charge of a unit of soldiers on reserve duty now."

Palestinian and Israeli NGOs report working with juvenile detainees recruited as informers by Israeli intelligence agencies. In one case Palestinian authorities arrested four suspected collaborators in Beit Sahour. Two were 19 at the time and one claimed to have been recruited by the Israeli internal intelligence service at 16 years of age.


International Standards

During the UN working group on the Optional Protocol in January 2000 Israel announced a change in position in favour of 18 as the minimum age for deployment.974 This was confirmed by Israeli Defence Force representatives in March 2001 who told a Knesset committee that "17-year-olds would no longer be allowed to serve as volunteers in combat units, even if their parents agree and would only be allowed to take courses until reaching 18".975

Israel is currently considering signature and ratification of ILO Convention 182 and the CRC-OP-CAC. At a Knesset committee hearing in March 2001 IDF representatives said they were willing to limit the age for compulsory service to 18, based on the Gregorian calendar, subject to the following conditions: (1) Amendment of section 20 of the Military Service act to prolong the period of time for enlisting, which is currently measured according to age calculation method rather than the Gregorian calendar; (2) Maintaining the power to enlist volunteers over the age of 17 and six months who wish to be enlisted before the age of 18. This may include special service programs that do not involve actual service in early stages but demand enlistment. In the Academic Reserve programme, in which recruits report for one-day before deferring military service, persons can be enlisted after reaching the age of 17½ by the Gregorian calendar.976

969 Israel's Basic Law:

970 Brett and McCallin op. cit.; Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.; under sections 2(2) of the National Defence Service Law, the army use a special method to calculate age allowing a person of 17.5 years to considered 18 for the purpose of the law.

971 Ibid.

972 Helen Chapin Metz op. cit.

973 Information provided by the NGO New Profile based in Tel Aviv.

974 CSC Update 6, 19/10/01.

975 Jerusalem Post, 6/3/01.

976 Information provided by Israeli Defence Force to CSC, 3/01.

Search Refworld