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Israel Parliament Passes Universal Conscription Bill for Men and Unmarried Women

The Israel Parliament today passed its first universal conscription bill for men and unmarried women. The vote was 47-13, with members of the Religious Bloc and several Arab deputies objecting to conscription of women and suggesting instead voluntary service for them. New classes will be called up on the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, in the spring.

The measure pertains to men between 18 and 49 and women between 18 and 34. For men between 18 and 27 active service will be limited to two years, for men between 27 and 29 active service will not exceed 18 months, while active service for women between 18 and 20 is limited to 12 months.

All persons above the active service age but still within the age limits of the law will be placed on reserve and will serve either 14 days or 31 days annually, plus one day per month. The one day per month service of reservists may not fall on a Sabbath or a holiday. Women who sign a declaration that military service is against their religious principles will be exempted from service.

The entire government defense bill was passed later by a vote of 62-0, with 12 abstentions. The Communists and Mapam abstained because amendments which they sponsored to limit the authority of the Ministry of Defense were rejected. A representative of the Orthodox deputies read a statement in support of the overall bill, despite the fact that it contained a provision conscripting women.

During the debate, Premier David Ben Gurion reiterated that Israel has no aggressive intentions towards its neighbors, desiring only peace with the Arabs but that any war started against Israel would be carried into enemy territory. He made his statement in response to a Herut deputy who asked that the name of the army be changed from “Defense Army” to “Israel Army” since the Premier had indicated that the army would take the offensive under certain circumstances.

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