Opposition bashes 'racist' veteran benefits bill

Meretz leader says bill will make discrimination against haredim, women, Ethiopians and Arabs legal.

Reserve soldiers prepare to deploy in Ashkelon 370 (photo credit: marc israel sellem / the jerusalem post)
Reserve soldiers prepare to deploy in Ashkelon 370
(photo credit: marc israel sellem / the jerusalem post)
Benefits for those who did IDF or civilian service is racist and discriminatory, opposition MKs said in a Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee meeting on the Veteran Benefits Bill Monday.
At the same time, coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) said that compared with other countries, the bill doesn’t go far enough to reward those who completed their service.
“This bill attempts to decrease the inequality toward those who finished service and then want to get a job or higher education, while their friends who didn’t serve had a three-year advantage,” Levin said The current version of the bill, which is a softened version of Levin’s original draft following objections from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, grants benefits in employment, higher education, buying land and other areas to recent IDF and civilian service veterans and active reservists.
It passed its first Knesset reading last month with 52 MKs in favor – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and 25 opposed.
Livni and Weinstein maintain that it is legally problematic.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called Levin’s proposal anti-democratic.
“This Knesset passed laws to prevent discrimination and have affirmative action, and now this will make discrimination against haredim, women, Ethiopians and Arabs, who already face it, legal,” she said.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) called Levin a racist, compared him to deceased Austrian politician Jorg Haider – who was known for his pro-Nazi and anti- Semitic comments – and said that if there’s a competition for “who will be most extreme and most fascist, Levin is a top contender.”
Tibi also said that, if the law is passed, he will complain to the OECD, which already criticized Israel for allowing discrimination against Arabs and haredim in the workplace.
“If we want to recognize those who serve, we should do it during their service or immediately after. All this law does is push away populations we want to bring closer to the Israeli ethos,” MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) said.
Levin faced criticism from the coalition and MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) who said that those who serve in the army and civilian service are in a better position than those who don’t in the first place.
MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) expressed hope that “with God’s help we will pass this law, and it will only be the beginning of the State of Israel expressing appreciation for those who chose to serve it and its citizens.”