No party has held the banner of equality of service and contribution to our society more consistently or for longer than Yisrael Beytenu.
Since its foundation Yisrael Beytenu has continually pushed the concept of military conscription or national service for all Israelis, regardless of gender, religion or background.
It is time to send a clear message that the blood of each and every Israeli is as red as the next.
We propose that every Israeli must either enlist in the IDF or complete national service. There are no more excuses. No sector of our society is without its poor, ill or needy. If an Arab or ultra- Orthodox Israeli can not undergo military service for ideological reasons, they can at least serve their own community in their cities, villages or neighborhoods.
A very small and limited number, around a thousand, of the brightest and best yeshiva students will receive exemption from service as they will contribute to our society through their learning and future service as rabbis and Jewish leaders. Equally, the same number of students at institutions of higher education will also receive exemption from service if their studies are considered valuable to our society.
This is not merely a matter of equality; it is also about the future of our country. If we look back to the early years of the state, the vast majority served the country and contributed to our society. A situation has been allowed to fester for decades which has changed these proportions dramatically.
In only a few short years the number of those who serve will become a minority; the national burden will be laid on a shrinking number of Israelis. This will become an untenable situation and one which we can not afford to leave to our children.
Unfortunately, as we all too regularly witness, a conflagration can occur on any one or more of our borders at any time. Our national resources are stretched and those who contribute the best years of their life should feel that their contemporaries of all backgrounds are sharing the national burden.
Moreover, our government should incentivize service, by giving priority of benefits to those who contribute. While rights are sacrosanct, benefits are not, and they should be earned. That is why Yisrael Beytenu is fighting hard to ensure that benefits like priority housing and free education should be given to the shrinking number of those who fully contribute to the economy and defense of our nation.
We would also like to break the cycle of poverty specifically among those sectors where non-service appears to correlate to economic constraints. Military or national service also provides skills and a profession that will allow for greater proficiency in the job market.
Sharing the burden will also provide Israelis across the spectrum with a much-needed feeling of solidarity and loyalty to the national cause. As US President John F. Kennedy famously said at his inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Commensurate contribution by all will assist in the equalization of our society and help the Jewish state face its external challenges.
It is time for the government to put the nation before narrow sectoral interests and equalize the national burden among all Israelis.