If a bill approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation becomes law, IDF
veterans and anyone who has performed civilian service will be eligible for a
variety of long-overdue but hardly dramatic perks.
preferred status in public sector job placement, accommodation in university
dorms, tenders for civil service positions, land leases/purchases, etc. The
bill, presented by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud), is a very pale
Israeli adaptation of the incomparably more substantial American
Levin has, however, stirred a veritable hornet’s
His legislation, for example, was excoriated by the Mossawa
Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, which inter alia opposes the
definition of Israel as a Jewish state, and demands the elimination of Jewish
state symbols and an overhaul of Israel’s immigration policy.
asserts Mossawa, shows that “racism and discrimination go together with the
basic values of the State of Israel,” and “anchors in legislation Israel’s
Mossawa is hardly the bill’s lone adversary. The
attorney-general has expressed doubts that it would be upheld by the Supreme
Court. He may be right.
But this is not cause to celebrate Israel’s
perceived broadmindedness. It is indeed distressing that a simple affirmation of
what our society owes those who sacrifice for it should arouse such
Far from being challenged as discriminatory, the GI Bill in
America is lauded and upheld as an example of society’s gratitude to those who
protect it. Americans know that the freedoms they enjoy are not free, and have
no issue with acknowledging in material terms the real debt they owe those who
paid for freedom.
But what is self-evident in the US is decried as racist
in Israel. Here, appreciably lesser perks to Israeli veterans are denounced and
portrayed as a sinister plot against Arab citizens. This, despite the fact that
Arabs can easily avail themselves of these perks without doing military service
– something that is quite impossible in the American setting.
more. All those who avoid military service or any other substitute in the form
of civic service – not only Arabs – will be denied perks. When the skewed
hysteria is removed from the debate it becomes crystal clear that Arabs are not
Haredim who dodge the draft will also be denied veterans’
In both cases, the reason is identical – benefits earmarked for
military veterans do not go to those who refused to do any sort of public
service, even service totally outside any military frameworks and even service
exclusively for their own community.
The Israeli criteria are far more
liberal than the corresponding stipulations in the US.
The US Post-9/11
Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 expands financial benefits only to
military veterans and only to those who had served three years on active duty
since September 11, 2001.
The biggest change the statute made was to fund
in full a public four-year undergraduate education. The act also provides
options for the veteran to transfer benefits to a spouse or children after
serving (or agreeing to serve) 10 years.
The goals of what is popularly
dubbed the “21st Century GI Bill” law are to pay US veterans’ college expenses
to a similar extent that the original post- World War II GI Bill had. There is
consensus among social scientists that the GI Bill contributed massively to the
advancement of American society, to say nothing of the long-range vitality of
the US economy.
Israeli veterans – who are conscripted rather than
salaried professional soldiers – will be awarded far less according to proposed
legislation that is causing so much squawk among purported civil
To deny even that little is hardhearted, counterproductive
and grates against the “share the burden” ethos. Without our modest version of
the GI bill, those who do not serve will continue to get a head start at
university, fill dorms, graduate early and grab jobs. Those who do serve will
lag behind at the end of the line in the name of equality.