Ashkenazi reservists - Fattal - 22.4.12
Former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi signs the bills put forward by protesting reserve soldiers on Saturday, April 22, 2012. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Saturday paid a visit to the reservists' protest tent in Jerusalem's Rose Garden, set up across from the Knesset by protesters demanding that all Israeli citizens be required to perform compulsory national service.

"It is a national imperative that every citizen serve, either in the army or in civilian service," said Ashkenazi, after signing the text of a bill being proposed by the protesters which would require that every Israeli citizen be drafted either into the IDF or a national service framework.

"The existing reality is wrong and unjust. This is not against the ultra-Orthodox or the Arabs, and I don't think that people who serve are being taken advantage of. It's not only a security need, it's a social need," Ashkenazi added.

The reservists' tent, also called the "suckers' tent," was resurrected last week in order to promote the struggle for a new law to replace the Tal Law, after the latter was ruled unconstitutional by Israel's High Court in February.

On Sunday, the protest's organizers unveiled a proposal for a bill that would obligate every Israeli citizen to participate in either military or civilian service. Organizers are hoping to gather a million signatures on the bill.

Ashkenazi was the first to sign the bill, and was followed by a number of other prominent public figures, including former MK Geula Cohen, actor and bereaved father Shlomo Vishinsky, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Yad Lebanim Chairman Eli Ben Shem, the chairman of the National Student Council and the vice chair of the Student Association and others.

"We are here to remind the prime minister of his obligation to honor his commitment to lead legislation of a law obligating everyone to serve," said Boaz Nol of the "Common Denominator" movement and one the leaders of the protest tent.

"There is a broad national consensus, among the people, in the Knesset and in the government in favor of sharing the burden. Anyone who does not support this bill is a draft evader, and we will pursue him," he said.  

Newly-elected Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz is expected to pay a visit to the protest tent on Sunday, accompanied by senior members of his party.