Netanyahu's office ruled out the possibility of compulsive military service – a scenario Israel's Arab community has long feared – earlier this month, but it will become a reality for civil service, says Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman. “We want to see an incremental process where more and more Arabs perform the service,” Mr. Regev says.
Previously, Israeli Arabs could volunteer to do various types of national service. The number who choose to do so has increased by 60 percent since 2011, reaching 2,400 Arab volunteers in 2012, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. Israeli officials have emphasized that national service opens doors and job opportunities for Arabs and have criticized Israeli Arab leaders for their opposition.
Under the new law, national servants would work in various social service and health-care institutions, such as hospitals, schools, and community centers (similar to those volunteering already). In theory, performing such national service would entitle Israeli Arabs to the perks that a Jewish Israeli who has completed military service enjoys: cash grants, discounted mortgages, better access to government jobs, and financial aid and housing at Israeli universities.
But many Arabs in Israel think they'll continue to be discriminated against, despite performing national service intended to make them equal to Jewish Israelis. And while about 41 percent of the Jewish public agreed that Arabs should be required to perform military or civil service at the age of 18, according to a June survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, about 45 percent said the current situation, where Israeli Arabs serve on a voluntary basis, should remain.