A couple of months ago an unprecedented vote occurred in Israel’s legislature.
For the first time in 64 years, a law was placed before the Knesset plenum to
make all Israelis, regardless of background, equal in terms of their service and
contribution to the state and Israeli society.
There was a lot of hope
that this historic bill would pass by a significant majority, as polls indicated
that the overwhelming majority of the public and all the leaders of all the
major parties, according to their repeated statements, were extremely supportive
of such an agenda. However, only the 15 Yisrael Beytenu MKs and a handful of
others raised their hand in support at the moment of truth.
years, this was a historic decision not only because it would have changed a
long-standing policy which Israel’s Supreme Court deemed discriminatory and
unconstitutional, but also because we might not have too many more chances to
rectify the current broken system.
According to all indications, when the
children who just entered first grade this year graduate from high school, the
majority will not embark on military or national service. This means that for
those of us whose children and grand-children will graduate in 12 years and will
serve and contribute there will be an increasingly heavy weight on their
shoulders as they defend this country, work and pay taxes to keep our economy
As fewer serve, the burden for those who do will become greater.
Our borders won’t need any less defending in 12 years and our national budget
will not be smaller, in fact the opposite. More and more will be expected from
our children and our grandchildren, who will be crushed under the weight of
carrying the majority of the country on their shoulders.
This is why our
opportunities for real change are limited, making the lack of support for the
IDF or National Civilian Service Law, voted down in July, all the more galling
This is not a missive against any particular group
of Israeli citizens; however, we do need to make a clear division in Israeli
society. Not on religious, communal or ethnic lines, but the state needs to make
a distinction between those who contribute to society and those who do
Each community has those who serve and contribute and those who do
Every Israeli citizen should be treated the same; just as every
holder of an Israeli blue ID card receives the same rights and benefits, so we
should all have the same obligations.
Our citizenship is what unites us
all and we should be judged by the color of our ID card and not the color of our
skin or the color or style of our headwear.
There should be one rule for
all Israeli citizens; those who contribute more should benefit more, those who
contribute less should benefit less.
In most countries there is an
unwritten social contract between the citizens and their state which says
exactly that. However, in Israel one can benefit fully from the state without
contributing towards one’s society. This is obviously an untenable situation and
one which if left without repair will place Israel’s economic, social and
security accomplishments in grave danger.
Sadly, this is our future
unless we rectify the situation sooner rather than later.
we can start to reverse the increasing numbers of those who do not serve and
contribute. As things stand there is no incentive to serve and contribute,
because those who do not contribute will still receive the same benefits,
sometimes even greater benefits, than those who do. This system, which has
already lasted 64 years too long, incentivizes non-productivity and
If benefits are legally made commensurate to contribution
then we will naturally see greater contribution. We should give priority
housing, cheaper or free education from an earlier age, stipends for further
education and greater state benefits to those who contribute. This will
incentivize those who do not because they will see and potentially reap the
benefits if they start to contribute more fully than they currently
The state has broken its social contract with those who are asked to
contribute fully because it does not expect the same level of contribution from
others. This has demoralized many Israelis, who have subsequently taken to the
streets in recent years rallying for a just, fair and equitable society and an
equalization of the national burden.
The state has an obligation to its
people, and the people have an obligation to their state and society. This is
the basis of citizenship and remedying other issues in society and our economy
are just dealing with the symptoms and not the disease.
This is what the
electoral discourse should be about.
These elections should be a debate
We need to look after our future and our children’s
future by having this debate and making the vital decisions now.
former US President Theodore Roosevelt, a proud proponent of equal opportunity,
once said: “The first requisite of a good citizen... is that he shall be able
and willing to pull his own weight.”
Our blue ID card is our certificate
of citizenship of the State of Israel. It should also be a proud reminder of
what it means to be Israeli, what we have worked hard to achieve in the past and
our rallying call for the equalization of our society.The writer is a
member of Knesset and secretary-general of Yisrael Beytenu.