By Dr. Yoaz Hendel and Nicolas Touboul
For several years discussions have been held about different propositions for government resolutions and legislation to improve the benefits granted to citizens who have served in the army or the civilian national service. These proposals include exemption from taxes, preferences for acceptance to student dorms in institutes for higher education, and preferences or benefits relating to allocation of land for housing. In their essence, the proposals entail the basic proposition that it is proper and just-and non-discriminatory- to provide public benefits in return for past contributions to the society and State. The benefits would provide preference in hiring, in wages, and in various state services offered.
On the one hand, the supporters of these propositions feel that the current situation discriminates against those who have dedicated years of their lives to the State. The current level of remuneration shows disregard and demeans the service. It is also manifestly unfair and discriminatory to fail to compensate those who were mandated to serve while others were not. Critics of the proposals claim that rewarding army service and national service discriminates against the Arab and Chareidi populations who are exempt from service. Compensation for service should be made during service and not afterwards, they argue.
This comparative analysis establishes that post-service benefits are common in the Western world. Most of the democratic countries which were examined maintain some system of benefits for those who protect the country within an army framework. In terms of the types of benefits, differences could be found in the determination of who benefits (soldiers, veterans, their families) and in the form of benefit (employment, education, and various other benefits).
In the United States, enlistment was compulsory until 1973, and benefits have been instituted since 1944: preferential mortgages, unemployment benefits, educational subsidies and small business loans are some of the benefits extended to veterans. Approximately 10 million veterans have enjoyed the GI benefits, and in the Cold War era a third of the US population has enjoyed the benefits. It was found that the GI benefits helped many Afro-Americans improve their economic and social status. Similarly, in November 2009, President Obama signed a bill to promote public sector employment of veterans. Two years after the bill took effect, 28% of new public sector employees were veterans (although they comprise less than 10% of the general adult population).
In Canada, where the enlistment is not compulsory but seeks to reflect all parts of society, incentives for preference in the private sector are given to veterans. Veterans are also granted scholarships and insurance benefits. In Switzerland, where army service is compulsory, an extra 3% is levied in income taxes from those who don’t serve. In France, where service was compulsory until 2001, combat veterans receive a special pension and are preferentially given rooms in old age homes. The English Labor Party is initiating a scheme of mortgages for army veterans and priority for an interview with a private employer. In India jobs in government offices, public corporations, and public banks are reserved for veterans. In South Africa veterans are given rights when receiving medical treatment, and in college and vocational aid, as well as in discounts on public transportation. And in Australia they are given an automatic mortgage entitlement.
Proposals to reward IDF and national service with post-benefits conform to accepted standards in democratic governments throughout the world.