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 [of] draft-dodging” amongst healthy young men of draft age who are avoiding compulsory army service.

Barak was not only referring 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 Nov. 27, 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.

– David Bedein/The Bulletin

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.