Fit to drive? Fit to serve!

IDF to receive data on candidates discharged on psychological grounds, then found eligible for license.

Mofaz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Mofaz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Starting Monday, the Transportation Ministry will provide the army with information on youngsters who are found fit to apply for driver's licenses but have received psychological discharges from military service. The data will also encompass soldiers discharged in the past few years and will total thousands of names. The reasoning behind the move signed by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, part of a number of measures implemented recently by government bodies to fight a perceived rise in draft-dodging, is that if a youth manages to evade army service by receiving a discharge from an army psychologist, he or she cannot possibly be fit to drive - and if the youth is deemed capable of driving, he or she should then be able to serve in the army, the ministry said in a statement. The cooperation between the ministry and the IDF will allow the army to "track down draft dodgers and impostors who were discharged on the basis of psychological reasons," the ministry said. The IDF forwards data every year to the Health Ministry's Medical Institute of Road Safety, which conducts medical testing for drivers, on thousands of youths who have been discharged from the army for psychological reasons. As soon as one of those youths applies for a driver's license, he or she is summoned to the institute to undergo tests to determine suitability for driving. Many of these youths are found to be in perfect physical and mental health and are granted authorization to begin driving classes, the ministry says. Now, under a new directive issued by Mofaz - himself a former defense minister and IDF chief of General Staff - data on the youths in question will be furnished to the IDF Medical Corps for review and a possible army call-up. The minister said in a statement that the problem of draft-dodging was not just the IDF's and required the total mobilization of society. "It cannot be countenanced that youths who avoid army service by using false claims receive society's full benefits," he said. At a recent meeting between a top Transportation Ministry official and IDF representatives, it was decided that the IDF Medical Corps unit responsible for testing the health and fitness of soldiers would summon every youngster discharged on psychological grounds in recent years for a reevaluation. The measure is not a law and therefore does not need Knesset approval, Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia said. He added that the change was designed to address those instances that the army and the ministry deemed "obvious cases of draft-dodging and lying to get out of the army," and not for those who had legitimate psychological reasons for not being able to serve. The difference between those cases, Ovadia said, would be determined by Health Ministry doctors. The Transportation Ministry will not withhold licenses from those found fit to apply for them, regardless of whether or not they show up for an IDF reevaluation, Ovadia told The Jerusalem Post. To be turned down for a driver's license on psychological grounds, an applicant has to be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. While many soldiers are suspected of faking psychological maladies, some are genuinely unable to hold a gun, fire at human targets or serve for a wide range of other reasons. Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told the Post that Mofaz's initiative joined an expanding list of "grave and worrisome proposed laws that seek to mete out disproportional sanctions, without distinction, on those who do not serve in the IDF." "The IDF has recognized for years that soldiers' medical profiles are meant to be used for internal military purposes, and it is forbidden to make use of that medical information in a civilian context," Yakir said. "The IDF itself has historically supported amendments to the law that forbids an employer from asking a job candidate about his or her army medical profile. "Obtaining a driver's license is an exception to that law, as all doctors, including army doctors, are legally required to pass on... to the Licensing Authority any information on illnesses that could endanger the driver. However, it is forbidden for the Licensing Authority to pass on information about medical examinations it has carried out. Doing this would violate the authority's obligation to [preserve] secrecy and the citizen's right to privacy," Yakir said. Aharon Lapidot, spokesman for the Or Yarok road safety organization, said Mofaz's initiative should be closely examined and should be supported if it helped to stem the tide of draft-dodging. Lapidot added, however, that the initiative would have no impact on road safety. Judy Siegel contributed to this report.