The Knesset rejected the preliminary reading of the Defense Service Bill (Amendment – the duty of civil service or national service for those who do not do regular service), 2011, by MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) and several other MKs.

The bill, which was removed from the agenda, was set to impose the duty of national civil service to all citizens – so that a person exempt from regular military service will be obligated to perform civil service or national service.

The sponsoring MK, Nachman Shai, said, ”The holy scriptures and our Bible, our history is paved with men and women who understood the meaning of military service and laid down their lives, but this is not valid in Israel of 2012. The Knesset today has the opportunity to repair historic and social injustice, an opportunity to return this house to its former glory. We must restore the hope and belief in the good and many for whom this country is theirs – they are the famous third that work, pay taxes, recruit, and continue to bear the burden not only for themselves but for others who see the country’s budget as an ATM, built to take but not to give, without measure and without justification.”

Shai added, ”We ask that the best and brightest will continue their studies, but many others shall perform national service, military or civilian, and will contribute, as determined by the Prime Minister – those who want to get must also give. And at the time that the ‘suckers,’ as they are called, are risking their lives and fulfilling their role and their mission, others will benefit from a life of comfort, career, personal advancement and the ‘suckers’ will continue their way.”

Minister Benny Begin (Likud), responded to the bill, saying: ”It is clear to us that we`ll have to find another way to handle the issue of exemptions, we cannot ignore reality. Military service is unique and we should keep it and not obscure its importance, even if it is being imposed on some of the soldiers. I understand the Supreme Court ruling, but you cannot ignore the reality, it is not certain that there is room today for a broad absorption by the IDF for more and more societies of people who by their own view are called Haredim. There are limits on the ability and the will to absorb by special arrangements soldiers who keep special commandments according to their own way – like the Orthodox Jews, and the army of course respects this way. We should see the whole picture and give more time to think about alternatives.”

Begin added that: ”We must be cautious when using various expressions and be respectful of those people who honestly think their way cannot be a forced into one way or another. The necessary sensitivity does not allow us to follow the road of legislation that has a rigidity that does not allow the appropriate flexibility in our complex life. There are still groups and communities, each living according to its habits, does this constitutes a melting pot? Not certain. Do we need a melting pot – I`m not convinced of that.”

The explanatory notes to the bill, stated that: ”The purpose of the bill to impose the obligation of national, military or civilian service, to all citizens and to equalize the weight of carrying the national burden. The Defense Service Law requires every citizen or permanent resident of the State of Israel to perform regular service. However, in practice there are different population groups are exempt from this requirement. The range of those eligible for exemption from military service is steadily increasing and threatening the future burden distribution in Israeli society and economy. This amendment is meant to counter this trend and to preserve the principle of equality between citizens. It’s meant to impose the duty of the national civil service to all citizens – so that a person exempt from regular military service will be charged to perform national civil service. Civil service will be adapted to all citizens of Israel, on its different levels, allowing partnership and contribution of all citizens – to the society, the community and the environment.”