Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) yesterday came out against proposals calling for conscription of Arab citizens of Israel to military service.
“You don’t have to be a genius to realise that it’s impossible to draft the Arab public. Any initiatives of this sort smack of hypocrisy and even malice,” Rivlin said at a Ramadan Iftar feast at Kafar Qara.
The Knesset speaker – a veteran member of Israel’s parliament, whose name is often considered as a possible candidate for President after Shimon Peres’s term ends – said he would oppose any legislation that conditions state money on military or national service, adding that the Arab public has suffered for years of budgetary discrimination and that efforts must be made to create full and true equality for all Israeli citizens.
Instead of drafting Arabs, Rivlin proposed establishing a separate administration to deal with enlisting them to national service.
Earlier this month Yisrael Beitenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman proposed a draft legislation mandating military or alternative national service for all – including both ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis, at 18.
The issue of conscription has been at the centre of Knesset debates for months, since in March Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Tal Law, which granted draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox Israelis, was unconstitutional and could not be renewed. The Tal Law is set to expire tomorrow (1 August).
MK Shaul Mofaz, Kadima chairman, led his party into government, but after 70-days withdrew after failing to agree with Likud on terms for conscription or alternative national service for ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis.