(JTA) — A new poll conducted in Israel found that more Israelis support professionalizing the army and abolishing the draft than opposed that idea.
The poll was the first time the Israel Democracy Institute found that more Israelis supported the idea of abolishing the draft than opposed it since the organization began studying the question in 2017.
In this year’s survey, 47% of Jewish respondents believe the draft should be abolished while 42% disagreed. In 2017, just 38% supported professionalization while 59% opposed it.
In Israel, all citizens are drafted into the army at age 18, though Arab Israelis and Druze are given exemptions, as are most haredi Orthodox citizens and many religious women.
The poll points to a future in which support for the army, already decreasing in recent years among the Israeli public, could sink low enough to actually undermine its ability to function. The poll also indicates that among younger Israelis, support for the draft is far lower than among older Israelis, which could increase public support for ending the draft in the years to come.
Among those ages 18-44, 54-57% supported abolishing the draft while just 31-32% of those ages 55 and up felt the same.
Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, warned that shifting from a universal draft to a professional army would be disastrous for Israel’s security.
“We may find ourselves in a situation in which a small minority of idealists serve in the military alongside those who chose to sign up for lack of any better employment options,” Plesner said, noting that the idea of professionalizing the army “should be removed from the public agenda.”
He added: “It is important to understand that, without retaining some form of the ‘people’s army’ model, Israel’s security cannot be guaranteed for the long term.”
The poll, which surveyed 1,003 Israelis in Hebrew and Arabic, was conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute via phone calls and the internet between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4.
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