Coalition, opposition work together on bill to keep lone soldiers in Israel

The proposal is a response to a situation in which many lone have trouble beginning their adult lives in Israel when they finish their service.

November 24, 2016 16:15
2 minute read.

SOLDIERS SIT for a shared meal during training. IDF regulations are supposed to favor lone soldiers in giving them extra time to complete errands outside the army, but some say that this is not being honored.. (photo credit: LONE SOLDIER CENTER IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL LEVIN)

A bill that seeks to keep lone soldiers in Israel by providing a monthly grant to them after ending their IDF service will go to a ministerial committee for a vote on Sunday.

The effort crossed coalition and opposition lines, with MKs Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) and Yulia Malinovsky (Zionist Union) having the support of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

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The bill would give each lone soldier NIS 1,000 per month for one year after finishing military service.

The annual cost to the government is estimated at NIS 12 million, and would be in addition to grants already received upon discharge from the IDF.

During their service, lone soldiers receive a monthly aid package equivalent to NIS 3,500 for combat soldiers, and NIS 2,600 for those in noncombat positions. The total includes short-term assistance in the form of rent subsidies, food coupons and exemptions from municipal taxes and electricity bills.

Some 75% to 80% of lone soldiers come to Israel without their parents. The rest have families in the country who are unable to support them financially.

The proposal is a response to the difficulties faced by many lone soldiers in beginning their adult lives in Israel after completing their service.

Some 6,000 lone soldiers serve in the IDF at any one time.

At a meeting of the Caucus for Lone Soldiers chaired by Shmuly earlier this year, several lone immigrant soldiers told MKs that many among their group who left the country did so for socioeconomic reasons.

A report by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center found that half of lone immigrant chose to leave Israel immediately after their service. Of the half that chose to stay, another third left a short time later.

Malinovsky said she has received many complaints from lone soldiers who have trouble earning a living.

“These soldiers enlisted in the army and served the country, even though most of them didn’t have to,” she said. “We have a moral responsibility as a society and a state to take care of lone soldiers who served in the IDF and want to live here.

These are good, loyal citizens and we must be grateful that they chose to serve and contribute to the state.”

Shmuly said it will be a great achievement if the bill passes.

“I’m happy that after a long effort we are successfully changing the way the state sees [lone soldiers] and no longer takes away their support.

There is an understanding that [the state] must help them integrate in society,” he said.

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