Bill Legalizing Preferential Treatment for Israeli Soldiers Goes to the Knesset

Bill would prefer ex-soldiers in job hiring, higher education and real estate purchases; opponents says it legalizes racism and discrimination.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided on Sunday to support a softened version of a law that would legalize preferential treatment for citizens who complete mandatory military or national service. The bill will be read for the first time in the Knesset on Wednesday.

The new law, proposed by coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud), will stipulate that privately owned businesses are allowed to give preferential treatment to former IDF soldiers or those who performed national service when hiring new employees. Such, preferential hiring would not be considered illegal discrimination.

In addition, according to Levin’s proposal, recreational institutions or other businesses that provide public services would be allowed to “shorten the lines” for soldiers in uniform. Another clause in the bill states that Israeli higher education institutions would be allowed to give preferential treatment to those who have completed military or national service when renting dormitory rooms.

In addition, public bodies that auction real estate zoned for resident projects would be allowed to favor proposals from those who completed military or national service.

A few months ago, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein rules that the previous wording of the bill was riddled with legal problems. It included preferential treatment for former soldiers in government jobs, which would have discriminated against Arab citizens who do not serve in the IDF. The previous incarnation had been passed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but Levin withdrew it, understanding the legal difficulties it would create.

However, even the current wording, which was formulated in coordination with Weinstein, has garnered criticism. Meretz chairperson MK Zahava Gal-On criticized the committee’s decision to support the bill. According to Gal-On, “the ministers legalized racism and discrimination in this bill. The current Netanyahu government is continuing its previous trend of racist laws, which discriminate against minorities and weaker populations.”

Jabar Asaqla and Ron Gerlitz, co-directors of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, released a statement, which read “this bill is another attempt by the radical right to harm the rights of Arab citizens, especially their basic right to equality in the job market, and their right to an equal distribution of government resources, including land. It is also a cynical attempt to take advantage of the dispute between the government and Arab citizens regarding national service, in order to widen discrimination against Arab citizens. Sikkuy calls on the government to promote laws aimed at reducing discrimination against the Arab public, and laments the fact that it is instead supporting laws that solidify discrimination. The prime minister and justice minister must put a stop to this terrible bill.”

MK Levin said on Sunday that “the bill represents the first step in the process of creating real equality in sharing the burden by implementing preferential treatment for those who gave of themselves for the country.”

Soldiers near Gaza: Their service will help them in civilian life.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

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