Vote on Bill Barring Israeli Arms Sales to Human Rights Violators Postponed

Bill calling for affirmative action for demobilized IDF soldiers also put on ice.

Speaker Yuli Edelstein, right, looks on as MK Yehudah Glick speaks during the Knesset session in which the MK was sworn in, May 25, 2016.
Menahem Kahana, AFP

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation deferred Sunday its vote on a bill that would prohibit military exports from Israel to countries that have committed serious human rights infractions.

MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) is leading work to persuade the ministerial committee to pass the bill, joined by MK Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi). Unusually, the bill found backers among lawmakers both left, right and center: Meretz MKs Tamar Zandberg and Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) signed, as did Yesh Atid’s Yael German and Eliezer Stern and MK Moti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi.

“This bill has moral and public value because we have the obligation to increase monitoring of security exports so that Israeli weapons will not be misused,” Uriel wrote the committee members before the debate. “Together with economic and political considerations, Israel should take moral considerations into account,” Uriel wrote.

Identical bills proposed in the last Knesset did not receive government backing.

The bill’s explanatory remarks noted that as of late 2013, the Defense Ministry had issued 400,000 export and marketing licenses to 130 countries and other entities.

“From UN records it emerges that over the years Israeli security equipment has been exported to countries in which at that time serious violations of human rights were taking place.” During the civil war in Chad and in Rwanda in 2008 such violations by security forces were documented by the U.S. State Department.

Rwanda was also fighting in the Republic of the Congo for many years, remarks appended to the bill also noted. It armed rebels in that country and supported militias that made use of child soldiers.

 Affirmative action

Likud MK Anat Berko.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation a;sp postponed for a month a decision on whether to support a controversial bill requiring that priority be given to newly released soldiers applying for public sector jobs and for studies.

The postponement came after most ministries expressed objections to the bill as its stands, to allow the author of the bill, MK Anat Berko (Likud), to try to reach understandings that would permit legislation to proceed.

According to its current wording, the bill would allow public sector employees not to apply affirmative action to benefit newly demobilized soldiers if the rules for granting such priority would “thwart the essence and character of the activities of that particular public body.”

Explanatory remarks on the bill state that “it is a fact that a person who has served in the army differs from another who has not served in that the former contributed his/her time in the service of the country’s security and the latter in that same time was able to fulfill personal desires and move ahead. It is a fact that military service leads to a gap that is a disadvantage for those who serve.”

The explanatory remarks also state that the bill would indirectly help reduce draft-dodging because those who avoid the draft would see that the state applies affirmative action to correct the gap created when people further their education and professional training while others are in the army.