IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot visited the tomb of Sheikh Amin Tarif, a Druze holy place, in the northern village of Julis on Friday ahead of Eid al-Adha.
During the visit, which took place as the government continues to deal with backlash from the controversial Nation-State Law, Eisenkot met with Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, as well as representatives of the Druze and Bedouin communities. Many members of Arab-speaking minority communities view the law as controversial, especially the Druze community, which as a minority group in Israel serves in large numbers in the IDF, including in some of the most elite units.According to the IDF, the Druze have continued to integrate into a wider range of military units and there has been a 30 percent increase of Bedouin joining the IDF.“In order for the army to realize its mission, dedicated, high-caliber soldiers are needed, and I see the action of the Druze and Bedouin communities in the IDF every day,” Eisenkot said Friday while in Julis.“I see this partnership grow before my eyes day by day, hour by hour – the same partnership and responsibility of the people’s army that represents everyone in the State of Israel. We need to look with pride at the past 70 years, as well as look 70 years ahead for a common future. It’s not about integration, but rather about a shared responsibility and a mutual commitment. The proof of that is the increasing number of Druze IDF officers and Bedouin enlistment. The IDF gives its young people an equal opportunity no matter where they come from, and we will continue to realize the concept of the people’s army and to integrate all soldiers of different ethnic groups.”The head of the Population Administration, Lt.-Col. Shadi Abu Fares, also took part in the meeting and stressed that the military is key for minority group members to integrate them into Israeli society.“The Population Administration is a body that is responsible for integrating all members of all minority communities into the IDF, we see the whole picture, starting with the recruitment process, the service itself and the day after release,” Abu Fares said. “Many see the IDF as an excellent platform for integrating into Israeli society. We believe in empowering and expanding the recruitment of minorities to the IDF ranks and we expect to see minority soldiers in a variety of units.”Supporters of the controversial Nation-State Law say it enshrines Jewish and democratic values, but critics say it discriminates against minority communities like the Druze, Bedouin and Israeli Arabs, who say it renders them second-class citizens.Eisenkot has called on soldiers and commanders to leave political disputes outside the IDF, after three Druze officers posted on Facebook they would resign from the military as a result of the law’s passage. The chief of staff also met with Tarif shortly after the law’s passing, and the spiritual leader said he agreed with Eisenkot.In late July, close to 100,000 people attended a Druze-led protest last month in Tel Aviv, and another 30,000 protesters rallied last week in a similar Arab-led demonstration in Tel Aviv.
Israeli Druze rally against new nation state law, August 4, 2018 (Reuters)