TEL AVIV (JTA) — Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said calls to draft Israeli Arabs into the army were “hypocrisy,” citing uneven funding of Israel’s Jewish and Arab sectors.
“You don’t have to be a genius to realize that it’s impossible to draft the Arab public,” Rivlin, a member of the right-wing Likud Party, said at a Ramadan feast, according to the Times of Israel. “Any initiatives of this sort smack of hypocrisy and even malice.”
Rivlin said that Arab-Israeli communities face budget discrimination, and before Arabs enter a draft, the Knesset must pass laws ensuring full equality for all of Israel’s citizens.
The Times of Israel reported that Rivlin called instead for a separate government administration to draft Arabs into civilian national service. Yisrael Beiteinu, a right-wing nationalist party, recently introduced a bill to draft Arabs at age 18.
The debate over universal conscription has been at the center of Israel’s political discourse for months, following a court ruling that declared current draft laws, which exempt the haredi Orthodox and Arabs, illegal.