The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee held a heated discussion on Monday over a government-sponsored bill which is set to regulate and define civil service in Israel.

MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) said during the debate that ”the Arab population isn`t turning its back to volunteering, which is an important value. However, the Arab population is sensitive to the politicization of volunteering. We need to start a common, open, and sincere discussion. Let`s pause for a month and get back to a democratic discussion”.

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) responded by saying, ”We`ve been discussing this bill for over eight years and now there is suddenly a call for dialogue? This discussion needs to take place in the framework of the committee, while we are advancing the bill. You want to suddenly stop it all?”

MK Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said”I agree that this shouldn`t come in the form of coercion. Yet, we keep on hearing from the Arab citizens that they want to volunteer, but it`s the leadership that refuses”.

Chair of the committee, MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu) argued that ”this bill is our opportunity to serve the general Israeli population; let`s not waste it. We will be attentive, hold debates among ourselves while not allowing any harm [to the Arab population], but I do not like ultimatums”.

MK Odeh stormed out of the debate and said, ”I feel threatened; Shuli Moalem and Sofa Landver are not in charge of the Arab population. Without an agreement, the bill will fail.”

In response, MK Moalem-Refaelisaid that ”with all due respect to the necessary changes, they will be made in accordance with the Jewish and democratic nature of this country. Our goal here is not to make some people comfortable, but to make sure that the civil service is meaningful”.

MK Elalouf said ”the Ministry of Agriculture is not the most suitable to be put in charge of National Service. Being tossed around between different ministries is not healthy to the service and its mechanism”.

Ruth Twito, who is currently participating in the National Service program, told the committee that she and her friends are prohibited from using the volunteers` apartments on Fridays and Saturdays. Elalouf said in response ”this is outrageous and calls for clarifications during our next debate.” The director of the National Service Authority, Sar-Shalom Jerbi said: ”this is the first I`ve heard of this. I will check this claim”.