Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made an unusual policy statement, ordering the Israel’s military establishment was going to “take steps to reduce the level draft-dodging” amongst healthy young men of draft age who are avoiding compulsory army service.
Barak was not only relating to high profile instances in which Israeli soldiers refuse to carry out orders or to even to serve in the Israeli army for ideological reasons.
Indeed, there are well organized Israeli groups who oppose Israel’s military presence in Judea and Samaria and who will encourage Israeli soldiers to desert their units if they are assigned to Judea and Samaria areas that were acquired by Israel in 1967 after Israel fought off a ground attack from Jordan, during the Six Day War.
One group that encourages Israeli soldiers to desert their units rather than serve in Judea and Samaria is known as THE COURAGE TO REFUSE.
Yet another group, YESH GVUL, distributes leaflets to Israeli soldiers in which it offers them $750 a month if they are arrested for refusing to serve in these areas, also known as the west bank.
More than a year ago, the Israel State Prosecutor answered a query from this reporter about YESH GVUL’s $750 offer by writing that it was “considering criminal prosecution of YESH GVUL for offering such a gratuity to conduct a felony in the Israeli army”. No prosecution has yet taken place, however.
Another level of draft-dodging that concerns Barak, is a less ideological approach taken by some Israelis that “it is simply not important” to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
One organization that has cropped up, NEW PROFILE, conducts high profile counseling services and a web site which instructs potential Israeli conscripts on ways of avoiding IDF service, by faking medical records, by feigning drug abuse or by showing various assortment of physical weaknesses.
On November 27th, 2003, Israel’s leading TV investigative journalist, Rafi Ginat, host of the popular consumer protection show known as KOLBOTECK, aired a show in which Ginat presented his undercover journalist who had entering the NEW PROFILE counseling service in Tel Aviv with a hidden camera, and who had recorded a team of professionals providing each new “client” with several hours of convincing counseling on why and how to get out of Israeli army service.
Barak’s barbs about those who avoid the Israeli army for ideological reasons and for reasons of expedience, may have been aimed at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself, who has never uttered a word of criticism against his own two sons.
Olmert’s oldest son, Shaul, has worked as a vice president of MTV in New York for the past seven years. Besides avoiding IDF reserve duty, Shaul Olmert has signed on the international petitions of COURAGE TO REFUSE who support Israeli soldiers who will desert their units rather than be deployed in Judea and Samaria. Prime Minister Olmert’s second son, Ariel, mysteriously avoided service in the Israeli army and studies in Paris, France.
With elections on the horizon, one can easily imagine Ehud Barak, decorated with five medals of bravery in combat, using the “army attitude” of Ehud Olmert’s family in a future election campaign