Should Arab Israelis Be Conscripted into the IDF?

During the past two weeks, Israel has seen two mass rallies against the nation-state law: one organized by Israeli Arab leaders, the other by the country’s Druze community. Moshe Arens, contrasting the anti-Israel mood at the former with the pro-Israel mood at the latter, explains the historical divergence between the two communities. (Free registration may be required.)

The Druze and the Circassians, [Middle Eastern Muslims whose ancestors hail from the northern Caucasus], cast their lot with Israel when it fought for its survival against a coalition of Arab armies that invaded the fledgling country in 1948. In 1956 David Ben-Gurion decided to enforce compulsory military service for Druze and Circassian youngsters, who have been serving in the Israel Defense Forces ever since, many having reached the highest command positions of the IDF. This has brought about a substantial degree of Israelization and Westernization in these communities and encouraged their integration into Israel’s society.

Would the same thing have happened to Israel’s Arab community had Ben-Gurion decided at the time to apply compulsory military service to them as well? The fact is that compulsory military service for Israel’s Arab Muslim and Christian youngsters has been left in abeyance over the years, even though it is an anomaly that so many of Israel’s citizens do not participate in the defense of their country.

Over the years there has been a substantial rate of volunteering for military service among Arab youngsters, especially from the Bedouin and Christian communities. . . . Increasing numbers of young Arab men and women are [also] volunteering for the civilian national service introduced some years ago. The strident opposition of Arab politicians to this trend seems to have had little effect. We may be moving in the right direction, but it will take a well-planned government and IDF program to normalize the participation of Israel’s Arab youth in the defense of their country.

The opposition of those Arab politicians to Arab participation in the defense of Israel is essentially based on a desire to see Israel destroyed, and therefore gives support to those forces intent on destroying Israel. Today, these are first and foremost, the ayatollahs in Tehran and terrorist groups. The Iranians are not Arabs and any damage they may inflict on Israel will affect its Jewish and Arab citizens. What logic can there be in Arab Israeli citizens lending them support, aside from a blind desire to see Israel perish? [In the long run], it is more likely that more and more Israeli Arabs will in time follow the Druze example.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Druze, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli society

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood