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Bayit Yehudi: Reward those who serve in the army
By LAHAV HARKOV AND JEREMY SHARON
01/15/2013
Plan titled "if they give, they will receive" offers to encourage IDF service by increasing benefits to those who serve.
 
Rather than force Arabs and haredim to enlist in the IDF or civilian service, they should be encouraged to do so by increasing benefits for those who serve, according to the Bayit Yehudi plan released on Tuesday to promote equality in the burden of national service.

Draft reform activists, however, criticized the plan as “insubstantial,” saying it would not increase the number of ultra-Orthodox men participating in national service programs, which was the main concern of their campaign last year.



A Bayit Yehudi spokesman said the party’s plan is incentive-based, and that punishing the haredi sector would not increase the number of such men enlisting in the army or civilian service.

“In the next government, we need a new social agenda, which better rewards those who carry the burden in order to encourage service,” the party explained.

“We are taking an existing benefit that the country gives as part of [university] tuition to over 100,000 students, and are redistributing it so that those who contribute to the state will be recognized, and those who do not will get less help,” the party said upon releasing its plan.

According to the Bayit Yehudi plan, which was presented on the party’s website and via a YouTube video, frameworks for haredi and Arab IDF and civilian service will be expanded.

Those who do not serve will have to pay NIS 20,000 per year in university tuition, as opposed to the current rate of about NIS 10,000 for government-supported universities and colleges.

Those who serve will receive a larger government subsidy for their tuition and pay NIS 5,000.

The plan also includes benefits for those who serve 10 days or more of reserve duty per year, including further tuition subsidies, a monthly NIS 110 tax break and a monthly NIS 150 subsidy for daycare for reservists’ children.

In addition, those who served will receive preference in employment in academia and government jobs as well as public housing.

Bayit Yehudi says the benefits they offer can reach NIS 55,830 in a reservist’s lifetime, and that their plan does not involve budget expenditures.

The party also mentioned that the rights and benefits for those who did not serve because they are handicapped will not be harmed.

A party spokesman also noted that Bayit Yehudi’s housing plan included the provision of half a dunam of land on which to build a house in the Negev and the Galilee for anyone who performs national service.

But draft reform activists who brought the issue to prominence in the national debate last year said the plan did not address the issue of low haredi enlistment and “has no relevance to the issue of ‘service for all.’” “Those who serve should get increased benefits, this is the right approach,” said Idan Miller, one of leaders of the Camp Sucker draft reform campaign and a Knesset candidate on the The Tzipi Livni Party’s list.

“However, Bayit Yehudi’s plan would not bring even one additional haredi person to serve,” Miller said.

Last week, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said on haredi radio station Kol Hai that “whoever is learning Torah should continue to learn Torah, full stop.” A party spokesman clarified the comment, arguing that the army at present would not be able to absorb thousands of new haredi recruits every year. Instead, he said, a gradual process of increasing haredi enlistment could be achieved by encouraging service for haredi men who, despite receiving army exemptions for being enrolled in yeshivot, do not fulfill their study obligations.

Yisrael Beytenu pointed out similarities between their plan, proposed last spring, and the Bayit Yehudi’s plan, even posting a graphic on Facebook that the party created in July 2012 with the text “If they give, they will receive.”

“We are delighted that Bayit Yehudi has adopted, a mere few days before the elections, not only the same ideas, the same concepts, even the exact same slogans that have been used by Yisrael Beytenu for the last year,” a party spokesman said.

The party official also noted that current Bayit Yehudi MKs had voted against the Yisrael Beytenu bill when it was put to a vote in the Knesset in the summer session.

According to Yisrael Beytenu’s 2012 plan, which was voted down in the Knesset, anyone who serves in national or civilian service will receive full rights and benefits, equal to those who served in the IDF. Civilian service will be administrated through the Prime Minister’s Office and under his direct supervision.

Those who do not perform some sort of national service would not be eligible for any grants or payments from the government that are otherwise available to the general citizenry, “in order to prevent those who dodge service from relying on funding from the government, so they will have to earn a living,” according to the legislation’s subtext.

This would mean that yeshiva students would no longer be entitled to the monthly NIS 828 stipend for studying, as well as discounts on National Insurance contributions and arnona, and other benefits.

Esawi Freige, fifth on the Meretz list, said that “there are many population groups in Israel that contribute to society, and a few groups, first and foremost the settlers, that the state contributes to them all the time.”

According to Freige, Israeli Arabs who work and pay taxes deserve benefits from the government “long before the settlers who empty the state budget and do not contribute to it.”

Bayit Yehudi’s plan is titled “If they give, they will receive,” based on a quote from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term referring to the Palestinians.

This time, however, the words refer to all Israeli citizens.
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