ANALYSIS: IDF Take-Home Weapons Order Could Endanger Soldiers’ Lives

YERUSHALAYIM -

The IDF order issued this week that soldiers should carry their weapons with them when on leave from their base reversed a decision made in 2006 that they should leave them at their base for their own protection.

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s order, given following the fatal stabbing of off-duty soldier Tuvia Yanai Weissman, Hy”d, who was without his service weapon, was intended to afford soldiers and those around them more protection from terrorists. But the result could, ironically, be otherwise, The Times of Israel argued.

“This directive is intended to increase the personal security of both the soldiers and their surroundings and will be implemented among soldiers with combat training,” the IDF said in a statement Monday evening.

However, over the years, it was found that soldiers who took their lives did it most often with their army-issue weapons, and the 2006 order was intended to counter that unfortunate fact.

Indeed, statistics indicate that the measure succeeded. According to a joint IDF-Sheba Medical Center study in 2010, the number of suicides in the army declined by 40 percent. Another study published in January by the journal European Psychiatry was even more encouraging, putting the figure at 57 percent.

Similarly, Israel’s Health Ministry credited the decline in taking their lives among Israelis aged 18–21 to the IDF’s policies. “It is likely that the decrease is because of the army’s suicide prevention programs of limiting access to weapons and increasing the awareness of prevention techniques,” the ministry wrote in a 2014 study.

In addition, the paper argued that allowing soldiers to go home with their weapons may not have any desired deterrent effect. “The majority of the stabbings, car-rammings and shootings that have rocked the country over the past five months have been directed against [armed] soldiers and border police on active duty, while they were patrolling or guarding checkpoints.”