A-G, Livni: Veterans bill could lead to racial, religious discrimination

Bill calls for recent IDF veterans and active reservists to get benefits in employment, higher education and buying land.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni both oppose all or part of the bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday for granting benefits in employment, higher education, buying land and other areas to recent IDF veterans and active reservists.
Weinstein said parts of the bill were clearly unconstitutional and parts raised questions about their constitutionality, leaving an overall worry that the bill could lead to racial and religious discrimination.
The attorney-general specifically said that the provisions regarding employment benefits was unconstitutional, whereas Livni opposed the bill in its entirety.
Weinstein and Livni’s announcement could leave the bills passage or its ability to withstand a possible future petition to the High Court of Justice in jeopardy.
Despite Weinstein and Livni’s opposition, coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), who proposed the bill, called it “the first step to true equality in the burden, giving benefits to those who contributed their time, effort and strength to the country.”
Ronen Shoval, director for the Zionist education NGO Im Tirzu, said “the time has come for the State of Israel to truly appreciate those who contribute to it. This bill will allow for the creation of true equality between different populations in the country, because it ignores what differentiates between us and treats us all equally through what unites us – contribution to the State of Israel.”
However, some called the legislation discriminatory, as most Israeli Arabs do not serve in the IDF or civilian service.
“The ministers made racism and discrimination more permanent through legislation,” Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On stated. “I support rewarding army veterans for their service, but this bill does not have any affirmative action; rather, it establishes criminal discrimination against weak groups in society, whom the law exempts from army service.”
According to Gal-On, the population that completes IDF service is heterogeneous, not discriminated against and does not need affirmative action.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to ministers asking them to vote against Levin’s bill.
“Benefits for whoever served in the army or national service harm Arab citizens, who for political and historical reasons do not serve in the army. Therefore, the committee’s members should stop this bill from being authorized,” the letter reads.
The legislation approved by the ministerial committee is a second version of Levin’s proposal, written after the attorney- general called the original discriminatory. Levin worked with Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon in order to court broader support in the coalition.
According to the legislation, those who served may receive preference in hiring, ordering and receiving services, acceptance to college dormitories and buying land.
The bill also applies to those who did civilian services and those who asked to serve in the IDF but were rejected.
The new version of the bill applies to a smaller group of people than the original, and is therefore less discriminatory, according to Yinon.
The benefits would only apply for seven years after finishing service, or to someone who did over 14 days of reserve duty in the previous year. In addition, preference of soldiers would only apply in cases when it does not go against existing laws prohibiting discrimination.
When land is being sold, the person selling it may prefer someone who served, but is not required to do so.