Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face a struggle as he seeks to expand who is called to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Members of the IDF have led calls for reforms that they be joined by all Israelis in defending the country.
Officially all able bodied men and women age 17-49 must serve three (men) or two (women) years of active service, and then up to a month each year in the reserves. However in reality two groups have been given exemptions.
Haredi Jews are very orthodox, and do not take part in the military service. Their argument is that their full time study of sacred Jewish texts adds to Israel’s defense.
They likely will be the greater challenge, as some of their number have already pledged to protest, and go to jail rather than serve. Their promised mass demonstrations will hurt the Prime Minister abroad.
The larger group makes up more than twenty percent of Israel’s population, Israeli Arabs. They were given the exemption by former Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who stated it was unfair morally for Arabs to be forced to fight against their fellow Arabs. Many, especially Beduins, though do volunteer already. With their addition, come security concerns, mostly due to the large numbers of previously unknown individuals that they will add.
Due to the Arabs lack of automatic service, many have come to view them as second class citizens. However, international ideas that all Arab Israelis would rather be part of Palestine have been repeatedly shown as false. Time and time again Arab Israelis have fought not just for Israel, but against the idea of their being separated from their beloved country.
In the long term Israel can only grow more unified by the inclusion of all into the IDF. Already viewed as having the best trained military in the world, the increased diversity and greater numbers will only make it stronger.