Cabinet weighs preferring vets for slots in Foreign Ministry

Labor sees measure is aimed at weeding out Arabs, but Lieberman maintains it is only to help vets.

avigdor lieberman 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
avigdor lieberman 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday postponed for a week a cabinet decision on whether preference on entry to the Foreign Ministry’s prestigious cadet course should be given to applicants who have completed army or national service, or who have been engaged in significant volunteer service.
The issue, which sparked a heated debate in the cabinet, is charged because of the appearance that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) is promoting it to keep Arabs who have not served in the army or performed any form of national service out of the country’s diplomatic corps.
Lieberman, however, denied this was his motive and said the proposal was not intended to deprive Arabs of opportunities, but rather to give preferential treatment to IDF veterans and those who serve in the reserves.
Not accepting the proposal, Lieberman said, would send a “negative message to those who serve in the IDF and reserves, especially in light of the previous decision to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to municipalities that are controlled by the Islamic Movement and the Communist Party.” Last week the cabinet, over Israel Beiteinu’s objections, approved the allocation of NIS 800 million to Arab towns.
The carefully worded proposal reads as follows: “Within the framework of enlisting candidates for the Foreign Ministry’s cadet course, preferential treatment will be given to candidates who served in the army, did civilian or national service or performed significant voluntary actions for the benefit of the state or society.”
One government source said that the proposal as it stands would exclude very few, as “voluntary actions for the benefit of the state or society” is open to wide interpretation.
Currently, according to diplomatic officials, there are about a dozen Arab and Druse diplomats among the ministry’s 450 diplomatic employees. The highest ranking Arab is Ali Yihiye, the ambassador to Greece. There are also four Druse cadets in the ministry’s current 24-member cadet course.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who led the charge inside the cabinet against the measure, released a statement claiming that the decision to put off a final vote on the matter was a “victory, for the time being. As an officer in the reserves,” Ben-Eliezer, who reached the rank of brigadier-general, said, “no one can teach me about the importance of giving preference to [veterans]. But it is forbidden to do that on the backs of those whom the state has determined are entitled to affirmative action.”
He said it was also important to take into account Israel’s image in the world, as well as the feelings of the Israeli Arabs at a time when “we are making extensive efforts to integrate them into the Israeli workplace as equal citizens.”
At the end of the debate, the Prime Minister’s Office said thediscussion would continue next week. A final decision, it said, neededto give preferential treatment to those who serve in the IDF over thosewho avoid service.
According to the statement, the proposal is not geared towardminorities who are not obligated to serve in the army, but rathertoward the 34 percent of the army-aged youth who are obligated, but donot serve. This idea, the statement said, needed to be reflected in anew proposal that cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser was on Sunday taskedwith formulating. Hauser was also charged with coming up with aproposal – that will be brought to the cabinet in a matter of months –to give preferential treatment throughout the public sector to soldierswho have completed their service.