Benjamin Netanyahu backs controversial army service plan (TELEGRAPH UK) By Phoebe Greenwood in Tel Aviv and agencies 07/09/12)
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Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has announced he will
back a controversial plan to compel ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab
Israelis to complete compulsory military or community service.
The move came hours after thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Tel
Aviv to demand the country´s Orthodox and Arab citizens share the
burden of service.
Protesters are calling for a change to the law that exempts ultra-
orthodox men from national service so they can pursue their religious
studies leaving secular Israelis, who are called up at the age of 18
for two to three years and then obliged to perform stints of reserve
duty until the age of 45, to man the nation´s army.
Apparently buckling under the considerable political and public
pressure of the protest, Mr Netanyahu on Sunday morning accepted the
recommendations of a report into the issue led by Kadima´s Yohanan
Plesner, which he had previously dismissed, calling for a new Haredi
enlistment law. The prime minister´s Likud party members voted for an
immediate debate on the issue of Israeli Arab service.
The prime minister told his cabinet ministers on Sunday morning "the
decisive majority of Israelis, including many in the ultra-orthodox
sector, understand that change must come. We are citizens of one
state and we must all participate in bearing the burden of service to
the state. We intend to give positive incentives to those who serve,
negative incentives to those who evade "
Protest leaders received the news with wary optimism. "You can never
know but hopefully this is a victory, not against the government but
for a more equitable Israel," said Lilach Meir, a representative of
the Union of Israeli Students. (© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group
Limited 2012. 07/09/12)
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