Israel’s summer protests, political this time

Hend Kortam
4 Min Read
Protests in Israel (AFP)

Israel’s Likud Party headed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is drafting a bill that would require Arab citizens of Israel to perform mandatory military conscription, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Netanyahu and his Vice Prime Minster, Shual Mofaz chairman of the Kadima Party agreed to form a panel to draft the bill for a new law, according to Haaretz. The two parties, who are a part of a coalition, were involved in a tense standoff that climaxed when Mofaz threatened to walk out of the coalition.

The recommendations came out in the report last Wednesday offering a replacement to the Tal Law which will expire in August. Although Netanyahu had dissolved the committee on Monday, last week, the recommendations were released anyway.

The committee was sticking with recommendations that would impose “the principle of universal service on all Israeli citizens” and apply “the principle of universal service to the Arab sector. National Service opportunities will be decided by the end of the year and legislation will be completed by March 2013,” according to the Israeli new service Ynet news.

The report was released by member of the Kadima Party and head of the Plesner Committee, Yohanan Plesner, who was responsible for finding a solution to the Tal Law which initially provided most Ultra-Orthodox and Arab citizens exemptions from military conscription.

The Tal Law was passed in 2002 and was expected to be renewed every five years. This February, the Israeli High Court ruled that the law had to be replaced by August.

This comes on the heels of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets on Saturday in Tel Aviv demanding that Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox Jews be forced into the military, according to AFP.

The number of protesters, reportedly estimated between 10,000 and 20,000, demanded that Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox either serve in the military or be required to complete some other alternative service.

The recommendations angered many in Israel including Arab members of the Israeli Knesset and the Ultra-Orthodox sector. But the Tal law had also angered many Israelis who think that the law is unfair to them.

According to a study conducted by Hiddush, an Israeli NGO promoting separation of religion and the state, “altogether, 82 percent (of the Jewish Public) is in favour of mandatory recruitment for all or most yeshiva students into service.”

Yeshiva is a form of religious education received by Haredi Jews. In addition to the military exemption, they also receive tax exemptions and subsidies from the government.

These protests almost coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s social justice movement which started last summer mid-July. Protesters camped out in the streets of Israel for weeks and demanding social reforms and objecting to the high cost of housing and living. The activists who largely inspired the movement last year, Daphni Leef tried to recreate it along with other activists last June. Security however, stopped their efforts.

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