Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party that backs him announced that they will show support for a controversial law that will make it mandatory for all ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as Palestinian-Israelis to perform either military or community service.
The law was proposed by the Plesner committee and would require everyone to complete military or community service. The plan also looks to increase benefits for those who comply with the law and impose stiffer penalties for those who try to dodge the draft.
Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz opposed the idea of a mandatory draft and even threatened to quit if such a proposal were to be passed. However, he and Netanyahu have since agreed on proceedings to get the law drafted.
Supporters of the law have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv to rally in favor of mandatory service for all Israelis. Currently, there are certain minority groups who are exempt from compulsory service. The protest required a police presence, though no violence or arrests were reported.
Under the present law, most men over the age of 18 are required to serve a minimum of three years in uniform, while women are required to enlist for two years. However, they have the option of opting for community work in place of military service.
With the new law, hefty financial fines will be enforced for those who try to evade the draft. It also has plans to cut down the number of religious seminary students who are exempt from 50,000 to about 1,500 within the next four years.
The plan also aims to increase the number of Arab citizens living in Israel to serve. Arabs make up about a fifth of Israel’s total population; the majority of them are strongly against the proposal.
The Tal law was passed in 2002 and allowed ultra-Orthodox Jews and Palestinian-Israelis to be exempt from service. This law was declared unconstitutional in February and will become void beginning in August.