Israel’s “unity government” collapsed yesterday. The issue that brought it down was the draft. Contrary to my assumption, there are lots of exemptions to Israeli conscription – primarily to Ultra-Orthodox Jews who are excused to study the Torah, and Israeli Arabs, whose status in the country is, well, complicated. In fact, Israel’s “universal service” is so laced with loopholes that only half the young people actually serve. The issue has seethed for years below the surface . . . and the Supreme Court declared the system unconstitutional last February.
In this country, which spends far more than any other on its military, less than one percent of the population currently serves, and the growing gap between military and civilian life has: led to multiple tours in war zones for soldiers and families already under great stress; made the rest of us far less concerned than we ought to be with what is happening in those places; and exacerbated a class system in a country that refuses to recognize it has one.
A democracy only works if there is (1) a shared burden (n.b. the rich pay taxes) and (2) civilian control of the military. Both these are threatened by the current situation. The only solution I can think of is national service (with non-military alternatives) for everyone, without exception. There is so much that needs to be done in this country, and we all need to pitch in and do it.
Most of us didn’t want the letter from our draft board that opened with “Greetings!” But it’s time to bring it back.