The Knesset authorized legislation granting benefits to IDF veterans in a
preliminary vote, following a heated debate Wednesday.
The bill, which
grants benefits in employment, higher education, buying land and other areas to
recent IDF and civilian service veterans and active reservists, passed with 52
MKs in favor – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and 25 opposed,
though Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said
it is legally problematic.
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud
Beytenu), who proposed the bill, said that “those who serve are at a
disadvantage today. They get to university at age 22 and meet people who didn’t
serve who are starting a master’s degree at the same age.”
week, after the proposal was approved by the Ministerial Committee for
Legislation, Weinstein said parts of the bill were clearly unconstitutional and
other parts’ constitutionality is questionable, leaving an overall worry that
the bill could lead to racial and religious discrimination. Livni opposed the
Weinstein and Livni’s announcement could leave the bill’s
passage – or its ability to withstand a possible future petition to the High
Court of Justice – in jeopardy.
“I heard this bill is unconstitutional;
I’d like someone to show me the constitution so I can study it,” Levin quipped
Israel does not have a
“Constitutionality” refers to whether a law defies a Basic
Law, which Supreme Court justices often treat as more powerful than other
Levin emphasized that the bill is “not anti-Arab or antianyone; it
is just meant to protect those who contribute and serve.”
“This bill does
not discriminate between Jews and Muslims, Druse or Christians who want to serve
in the IDF,” Deputy Minister for Liaison with the Knesset Ophir Akunis said.
“Whoever contributes should get more, without difference of religion, race or
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) called the bill populist.
Israeli citizen, a Jew who loves this land no less than any of you,” he said to
Likud MKs. “There’s no problem in giving benefits, but why are you trying to
polarize the nation? Enlist haredim and Arabs.”
Meretz MK Esawi Frej said
that “anyone who is disgusted by European laws forbidding ritual circumcision
should look at this bill first.
This is a racist bill that is meant to
“This government isn’t willing to contribute to the
Arabs, but wants them to contribute to the government,” Frej
According to the legislation, those who served may receive
preference in hiring, ordering and receiving services, acceptance to college
dormitories and buying land.
The bill also applies to those who did
civilian services and those who asked to serve in the IDF but were
The benefits would only apply for seven years after finishing
service, or to someone who did over 14 days of reserve duty in the previous
year. In addition, preference of soldiers would only apply in cases when it does
not go against existing laws prohibiting discrimination.
When land is
being sold, the person selling it may prefer someone who served but is not
required to do so.