Does Israel need a draft? Why even ask?

More silliness from the clown prince of the Israeli Left:

Meretz Chair Yossi Beilin will bring before the Knesset for a preliminary reading next week a bill overturning the mandatory military service law…

Beilin is convinced that making military service optional would not diminish the scope of the current recruits, citing high motivation to serve in the military among Israel’s youth. However, Beilin’s proposal allows the military to temporarily reinstate the mandatory draft in the case of diminished enlistment. — Ha’aretz

This proposal, if it could be passed — it can’t — would represent an enormous change in the way Israelis think about their nation and its situation, and make a huge difference to the nature of Israeli society.

In Israel, military service is probably the single most important factor in most young persons’ lives (excluding the ultra-orthodox and most Arabs, although Druze and Bedouins may serve). New immigrants learn Hebrew in the army, young people meet their future spouses, get to know people from various sectors of society, and make lifetime friendships. A secular kibbutznik, for example, might meet and get to know religious people for the first time. Their service may not make them experts on geopolitics, but at least it makes them capable of understanding military issues when they come up in the news. If there’s one institution in Israeli society — at least Jewish, non-haredi society — that acts as a unifying force and a source of education about the nation in which they live, it’s the IDF. And in a country where the possibility of terrorist attack is very real everywhere, the basic weapons training that conscripts receive has more than once saved lives.

Since most of the active IDF and the reserves are draftees, the army reflects the feelings of the population, and the population knows very well what the army is doing. Much of the agitation to remove PM Olmert has come from reserve soldiers who are upset about the way the war was mismanaged.

And of course the whole concept of defense in Israel depends on a small number of active duty soldiers backed up by a huge reserve force. It’s not clear that this would work on an all-volunteer basis.

So why on earth would Beilin want to change this? According to the Ha’aretz article, it is to help solve the problem of ultra-orthodox yeshiva students who are permitted to take a year off from their studies to learn a profession, but then must go back to the yeshiva or be drafted.

Perhaps Beilin is simply trying to draw attention to the growing problem of large numbers of yeshiva students who avoid army service. However, in any case, doing away with the draft would be a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Beilin, who began the process that led to the failed Oslo accords and who was a signer of the Geneva initiative (which did not get off the ground), has always seemed to hold the point of view that Israel is a nuclear superpower, second only to the US, and therefore can afford to be magnanimous in making concessions for ‘peace’. So, like the US, Israel can live without the draft.

But nothing has made it more clear than last summer’s war in Lebanon that being a nuclear superpower does not necessarily translate into political, or even military, success.

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