weinstein - Daniel Bar-On - June 17 2011
AG Yehuda Weinstein. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Emil Salman
FM Avigdor Lieberman Photo by Emil Salman

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told the prime minister last week that a bill to give discharged soldiers preference in obtaining civil service jobs is unconstitutional.

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Weinstein wrote that the bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu, "creates discrimination that would be difficult to justify," and therefore, he would not be able to defend it in the High Court of Justice.

Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon also said a few weeks ago that the bill was discriminatory and unconstitutional.

"Nobody disputes the importance of military and national service and the soldiers' contribution to Israel," Weinstein wrote. "The High Court of Justice has ruled they should be given reasonable financial benefits."

However, the bill creates "preference for one community over another in the allocation of limited resources, such as civil service positions, and puts other groups, first and foremost Arabs, the disabled and the ultra-Orthodox, in an inferior position."

"In addition to the constitutional difficulties it raises, the bill contradicts the basic principles that underlie [previous] legislation and cabinet decisions," Weinstein wrote, referring to an earlier law that had ordered the civil service to practice affirmative action toward underrepresented groups when hiring, so as to counter historic discrimination against these groups.

Weinstein urged Netanyahu to do everything he can to stop the bill from advancing, and to have the coalition vote against it if and when it is brought to the Knesset floor.

The Knesset Constitution Committee, headed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ), approved the bill in first reading about a month ago, despite the objections of the Knesset's legal adviser.

Loyalty laws

The bill, one of several sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu relating to issues of loyalty and citizenship, stipulates giving priority to anyone who did either army service or civilian national service.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin slammed the bill earlier this week, saying the civil service must not be turned into a mechanism for rewarding certain groups, and that it was wrong to discriminate against particular groups.

But MK Hamad Amar, who sponsored the bill, argued in last month's committee debate that "a young man who risked his life in the IDF has less chance of landing a public-sector job than one who dodged military service and meanwhile studied in university and accumulated work experience."

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ), who chairs the parliamentary inquiry committee on integrating Arab employees into the public sector, commended Weinstein yesterday for deeming the bill unconstitutional.

"Affirmative action is for underprivileged groups that need support and assistance, not for the majority," he said. "This bill is directed against Arabs, Christians, Druze women and the ultra-Orthodox. It stems from a racist worldview among people to whom the principle of equality is alien."