Carrots, Not Sticks, Are the Way to Bring Conscription to Israel’s Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox

March 13 2018

Israel’s governing coalition narrowly avoided collapse this past weekend over the objections of ḥaredi members to legislation that would increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews serving in the IDF. Yet the underlying problem is more widespread than that. Currently, notes Yoaz Hendel, only 50 percent of young Israelis enter the military:

There are countless draft dodgers [on] the left and on the right. And there are two groups which the state of Israel has failed to deal with from the very beginning: the Ḥaredim and the Arabs. [However], ḥaredi society has been undergoing a revolution in recent years. About half of the men work [rather than studying full-time]. More and more pursue higher education and thereafter join the labor market. Thousands of Ḥaredim also enlist every year. The reasons—mainly financial—aren’t all that important. The important thing is that, eventually, the integration process will be completed. The state has only two options in this context: to encourage it or to get in the way.

There is no, and there will be no, political solution to the problem. . . . The solution must come in an indirect manner. [The same is true for] Arab society. Generous benefits for anyone who serves in the army, . . . while expanding [opportunities for] national service, [is the best way forward]. . . .

Beyond the benefits, the national-service option should be expanded. ZAKA [a ḥaredi-run organization that responds to terror attacks], United Hatzoloh [an ambulance service], soup kitchens—ḥaredi society excels in such charitable activities, and any such organization can be regulated and incorporated into the national-service program. The hours required can be fixed by law, and ḥaredim can participate alongside their yeshiva studies. The same applies to Arab society: Arabs can and do serve in the fire and rescue services, in the police, or as teaching assistants in schools—and this service should be recognized.

Israel doesn’t need more soldiers, but it must encourage the ḥaredi integration process—not through laws that will be hobbled by political maneuvering but through carrots. Moreover, Israel must create a new generation of Israeli Arabs who define themselves as such and are interested in Israelization rather than [adapting] a Palestinian identity, which fosters separatism and support for terror.

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More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox

A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy