Legislation Favoring Military Veterans Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns, Says Deputy AG

Orit Koren warns of potential problems, but lawmaker says the bill does not go far enough "for those who contributed to the country."

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Deputy Attorney General Orit Koren harshly criticized a proposed bill that would give preference to demobilized veterans on Monday. "The bill deals only with giving preference in limited resources, is problematic from a legal standpoint and raises real constitutional difficulties,” Koren said at a Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee hearing on the controversial bill, sponsored by MK Yariv Levin (Likud).

The proposed law, entitled “The rights of those who contribute to the country,” allows private businesses to give preference when hiring employees to Israel Defense Forces veterans or those who did national service, without such preference being considered illegal discrimination. In addition, institutions that provide services to the public and entertainment will be allowed to give preference to soldiers in uniform and let them go to the front of the line. Another section of the bill states that higher education institutions can give preference to “those who contribute to the country” when renting out places for students.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List - Ta’al) spoke in crass language at the meeting, calling Levin “Joerg Haider” (a reference to the late, far-right Austrian politician). “Levin is a racist who pisses from the diving board,” added Tibi.

Levin, the head of the coalition, kept his cool. “The proposed law does not do justice enough and does not give enough compensation to those who contributed to the country the best years of their lives, and is far from what is accepted around the world in this matter. Nonetheless, it makes an attempt to reduce, if at least a little, the inequality against those who completed their service and only after three years turn to study or work, while their friends who did not serve have gathered an advantage over them. The bill tries to take into account their service as part of the overall considerations,” explained Levin.

Public institutions that hold tenders for land sales would also be allowed, under the proposed law, to give preference to bids from demobilized soldiers or those who did national service for 30 percent of the plots allocated in the tender. But such reference could not take the form of more than 15 percent of the price offered in the tender.

The bill will be brought to the Knesset floor for its preliminary reading tomorrow.

MK Zahava Gal-On (chairwoman, Meretz) criticized the government, saying that ministers have chosen to advance the bill in opposition to the position of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. “This is another antidemocratic initiative of MK Yariv Levin, whose political power overcomes legal advice and laws. The present Knesset legislated laws that attempt to prevent discrimination and grant corrective treatment to certain groups of the population. And now, through the back door, they want to set in law discrimination against the ultra-Orthodox, women, Ethiopians and Arabs, who are anyways discriminated against,” Gal-On told the committee.

MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) also attacked the government’s decision to push the bill, even though she is a member of the coalition. “The population [groups] that serve are not discriminated against, they are given preference in all areas in Israeli society. It is possible that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation expects the High Court of Justice to invalidate the law since it does not have the power to do it itself. What about at-risk youth and those with special needs who desire to serve and are not allowed to? Will they once again be discriminated against?” asked Kol.

MK Shuli Moalem (Habayit Hayehudi) spoke in justification of the proposed law. “The exclusion and delegitimization is against those who serve. Those who bear the burden are actually those who are excluded. My daughter does not receive a dorm room at the university despite her serving two years of national service. Everyone agrees there is a need to give incentives to those who serve, so why not now? With God’s help, Levin will succeed in passing the bill, and it will be just the start of the grateful recognition of the State of Israel to those who chose to serve it and its citizens,” said Moalem.

IDF soldiers during a training exercise. The defense establishment says it will have to cut back on training.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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