NYTimes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s supersize coalition was showing its first serious signs of stress on Friday in its quest for a more universal draft system in Israel.
An effort that has so far focused on phasing out mass army exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews suddenly became more charged as right-wing nationalist parties decided to press the equally — if not more — contentious issue of national or civilian service for Israel’s Arab citizens.
The issue is highly provocative. While most Jewish Israelis, and Druze men, are conscripted at 18, Israeli Arabs are generally not required to perform mandatory military service, though they may volunteer.
Recent polls have shown that despite a rise in the number of Arabs volunteering for civilian community service, a growing majority of Arab youth are opposed. A survey published in May by Haifa University found that 40 percent of Arab youths in Israel were willing to volunteer for civil service in 2011, compared with 53 percent in 2009. The Haifa University study also found that 90 percent of the Arab volunteers were girls providing educational and welfare services in their communities.