Reservists stand guard near Jerusalem
Reservists stand guard near JerusalemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Israeli organizations are fighting to prevent the government from rewarding soldiers for their service, and ultimately, are attempting to discourage IDF enlistment, according to a new report from the Im Tirtzu Zionist students' movement. The group sent its report to Minister Yaakov Perry, who heads a government committee tasked with examining the issue of IDF enlistment in the hareidi-religious community.

The report focused on activity by several Israel-based NGOs aimed at banning rewards for IDF service, demonizing soldiers, and encouraging Israeli Arabs not to participate in Israeli public life.

The report noted that in recent years the government has sought to fight draft-dodging by rewarding those who serve in the IDF and in the reserves. Among other things, politicians and government officials have sought to give reservists a discounted price on land in the Galilee and Negev, to give preference to former soldiers in the purchase of affordable housing, and to give preference to former soldiers or national service volunteers in appointments to state service positions.

Various leftist NGOs have fought the above initiatives, arguing that they are discriminatory and violate the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. According to Im Tirtzu, the NGOs’ battle has been so successful that IDF soldiers and former soldiers are now worse off than others when it comes to government aid.

The report found that most of the NGOs that fight giving benefits to ex-soldiers are funded by the New Israel Fund and foreign governments. One of their primary tactics is filing lawsuits against government initiatives aimed at helping soldiers.

While at first glance it may seem that courts have rejected the NGOs’ suits, in reality, many of the lawsuits were dropped only after the government agreed to either significantly alter pro-veteran initiatives or end them entirely, according to the report. In some other cases, the NGOs managed to drag out lawsuits to the point where the benefits that had been proposed were no longer relevant.

Overall, the report states, the lawsuits had the effect of reducing benefits for soldiers and delaying the implementation of benefit initiatives as well as discouraging Israeli Arabs from national service. Arabs who serve in state-sponsored service are subject to villification in their own communities and the lack of extra incentives acts to reinforce non-participation.

NGOs have used other tools, as well, including media campaigns aimed at reducing support for veterans’ benefits, campaigns abroad that demonize the IDF, and activities within Israel that encourage Israeli Arabs not to volunteer for national civilian service.

The report concluded with recommendations regarding two issues: rewarding reservists, and encouraging Arab enlistment in national service. It listed suggested benefits for reservists and ways in which the government could counter pressure on Israeli Arabs not to serve.