Someone has become mixed up. The Committee to Advance Equality in Sharing the Burden has based its conclusions on a principle that undermines the very foundations of the committee and effectively turns it into a committee against equality. The personal economic punishments it seeks to impose on those who refuse to serve will likely turn into a new tool for dodging military service. What can we say to someone who chooses not to serve in the army, and is neither haredi nor Arab, but is simply rich enough to forego any future support from the government?
What will we say when an anti-Zionist organization raises money from undisclosed sources to support conscientious objectors and divert our youth away from serving their country by means of alternate funds? The concern is that such economic sanctions essentially take us back to the days of Polish feudal lords and their serfs, or Czarist Russia, when Jews bought their freedom from military service through ransoms.
Another problem with economic sanctions is what happens when a government pays salaries to its employees, some of whom may have evaded military service? Will it pay their salaries on the one hand and impose economic sanctions on the other? Instead of getting haredim and Arabs to identify more closely with the state, to identify as a matter of values, the committee wants them to identify in a merely technical way. Each camp will become more entrenched in its own point of view, without any desire to get closer to the others.
As soon as minority groups in Israel create alternative funding systems to those of the state, Israel will officially become a country composed of sub-states. Is that what the Plesner committee wants? I am certain it is not. Equal sharing of the burden is a moral, cultural, educational and Jewish ideal. Efforts to turn it into an economic issue debase it.
So what should we do? We must immediately inform the public that the sanctions will be canceled, or conditionally canceled, and instead that we will build an educational program, in partnership with the leaders of minority groups in Israeli society. The proverbial Polish nobleman is dead, and his era is long past. We certainly must not return to those times.
The writer is the director of media and communications for the Union of Local Authorities in Israel and was formerly a media consultant for the Shas party.