Bereaved parents' veto over combat duty may change

Bereaved parents veto o

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi will decide on Wednesday whether to approve a recommendation by the Manpower Division to revolutionize the veto process reserved for a bereaved family before allowing a child to enlist in an IDF combat unit. The new procedure will enable draftees to undergo tests for combat units without the need for their parent's signature on a military waiver. Until now, the orphan or sibling of a fallen IDF soldier required his or her parent's signature before being allowed to undergo tests and begin the selection process for combat units. "The difference is procedural, but it is necessary," explained Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of the National Yad La'Banim Organization which represents bereaved families. "We want the kids to be able to maximize their potential, and that means allowing them go into the best units they can." According to Ben-Shem, some 300 children of bereaved families - half of them male - enlist in the IDF annually. One hundred of them, he said, serve in combat units after their parents sign a waiver. Criticism of the current system increased following the death in September of Assaf Ramon in a F-16 training accident. Ramon was the son of Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut in space who died in the Columbia shuttle tragedy in 2003. "The problem with the waiver is that every time a draftee tries out for a unit, he needs his parents to sign a waiver," Ben-Shem said. "This way, parents sometimes end up signing a few times since their child tries out for a few different units." Under the new system, the child will be able to try out for all units, and after he or she is accepted into a unit, the parent will then have the opportunity - if they want - to veto the combat service. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoram Yair, former head of the Manpower Department, criticized the new system, and expressed concern that it would cause additional tension within a family. "Imagine that the child tries out for a bunch of units, finally gets into one, and his mother decides to veto combat service," he said. "This will cause tension in the family and also likely give the draftee a feeling of resentment towards the fallen family member who is preventing him from serving in a combat unit."