Israeli Army Cancels Drills over Budget Issues
The Israeli army has canceled training drills for reserve forces, including ground force units, scheduled for the end of this year due to budgetary concerns.
Senior reserves officers were told that training would end, including exercises planned for divisions on the southern front, Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces officials believe the cancellation is due to changes instituted by new Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi and uncertainties regarding the next budget.
As a result, reservists in one division of the Israeli Northern Command will not train at all this year.
Some units decided that only senior commanders would participate in exercises, and reservists in the Artillery Corps were recently notified that the training planned for September has been scrapped.
The army spokesman claimed that the cancellations is because of Kochavi’s decisions, which led to overspending since he took office, as well as the absence of a budget plan for the next five years.
In recent weeks, the Ground Forces Command found that preparations Kochavi ordered for a future war in Gaza cost much more than anticipated.
Drills for certain units were canceled based on the assumption that it would not affect their preparedness for war.
However, a number of high-ranking reservists have warned that this decision will bring negative consequences, with some saying their units have not held training exercises this year.
They warned that this will lower the operational preparedness of the combat brigades.
The current budget is due to expire in 2020, and as a result of the two election campaigns this year, the government has not yet approved a new one.
If the budget is not approved before the beginning of 2020, defense spending will be based on month-to-month budgeting, which may make long-term planning more difficult.
Separately, the Israeli army admitted that its soldiers routinely detained and blindfolded Palestinian shepherds in Jordan Valley, violating orders and exceeding their authorities.
The admission came after 33 activists submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice detailing 25 times the shepherds were detained for two years and a half.
The petition argued that the large number of cases of detention and blindfolding points to an obscene habit aimed at punishing the Palestinian shepherds or simply abusing them.
In October 2018, the activists sought to determine what had happened to several Palestinian shepherds who had been detained, after a soldier in the Jericho District Coordinating Office told them that they were detained as punishment and as a deterrent in accordance with the policy of the brigade commander.
The soldier said the detention was meant to teach them not to return to use the area for grazing.
An army representative claimed the junior soldier does not reflect the instructions or the policy of the district brigade.
He explained that the instructions are updated routinely very confidentially, and that it explicitly states that the soldier is not authorized to detain any person as a punitive step, but has the right to detain the person in order to obtain information in case of crime.