A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Draft Arabs and Haredim?

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is quoted in Ha'aretz as saying he supports a new model of national service in which Israel would draft all Israelis, some of whom would be selected for the IDF. The basic problem is that historically, Israeli Arabs (who in Israel are classed separately from Druze and Bedouin) are not subject to national service, and haredim or the ultra-Orthodox generally, with some exceptions, are also exempt. The basic problem is that these two groups have the highest birth rates, and the IDF is having problems finding recruits from those subject to the current draft. Under a general national service program, the IDF would have first choice, with others going to civil or police duties.

Such a change would doubtless create some controversy, but it's an interesting development as Israel tries to deal with the demographic changes the country is undergoing.

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