Israel’s GI bill

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.

June 22, 2013 22:49
3 minute read.
IDF tank soldiers in the Golan Heights.

IDF tank soldiers 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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.

These include 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 counterpart.

Levin has, however, stirred a veritable hornet’s nest.

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.

The bill, asserts Mossawa, shows that “racism and discrimination go together with the basic values of the State of Israel,” and “anchors in legislation Israel’s prevalent racism.”

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 antagonism.

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.

There is 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 singled out.

Haredim who dodge the draft will also be denied veterans’ benefits.

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 libertarians.

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.

Related Content

Jammu and kashmir 248.88
August 19, 2019
South Asia, Kashmir and importance of its resolution


Cookie Settings