Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Moshe Feiglin: Professional Volunteer Army for Israel

Click here for this video, in Hebrew with an English transcript:

Interviewer: Moshe Feiglin has an amazing idea. Let’s take the army, and make it a salaried army, an army based on wages, an army like in the United States. Let’s try to understand this proposal, which is really interesting. You are saying that the army will transform from an army of the people, which you claim it no longer is anyways, to a professional army. You are saying that it will not only be based on money, but on volunteers, which is something that I understand less. 
Moshe Feiglin: No. I am talking about a volunteer, professional army. Just like an air force pilot. A combat pilot is not a mercenary. He receives a salary, which is hopefully as high and respectable as possible. Essentially, the main issue is the mandatory draft. I, and not only me, but also many experts, and also a few committees who checked this issue, say two things: First of all, the ethos of a people’s army is just that—an ethos. In reality, the army is not an army of the people anyways.

It'’s not a people’s army because the ultra-Orthodox are not drafted. 
That is not right. Less than a third of those who are eligible for being drafted in Israel actually finish their full three years of service. Pay attention to this statistic: Less than four percent actually fulfill a meaningful army service. So, first of all, let us understand that, anyways, a very small and specific sector of Israeli society actually serves in the army, no matter how you look at it. This ethos is just that—an ethos. In reality, the situation is different. The mandatory draft represents a serious problem in term of human rights and liberty. We are a Jewish state, in which the value of liberty is our guiding light. Let me expand on this. For instance, the authors of the American Constitution received their inspiration from the Bible, and the story of our freedom from slavery. Our basic message is liberty. First and foremost—liberty. On a most basic level, taking someone, and forcing them to serve in the army for three years is the exact opposite of liberty.

Do you really think that these people will want to volunteer in an army even though it will not be mandatory, and you say that we will be paying them the same exact salary that they receive today?
I’'ll jump straight to the final outcome, and I’m telling you this. We will be increasing our liberty, which was the main goal that drove me to go into politics in the first place. This is aside from the issue of the ultra-Orthodox—that’s a bonus. We will be increasing our liberty, and we will be improving our level of security to a much higher degree because we will have a real army—an army that is truly professional. We’ll gain a lot of money that has already been spent up until today on the security ethos, and we will also gain by having one less reason to get into disagreements with the ultra-Orthodox. I do not want to draft anyone through coercion.

What reference point are you using to make this decision?
Look, I served in the army for four years. I was an officer, in a combat unit. I understand the army, I understand the public, and I understand very well the people who run to join the army.

But where have you seen a professional model on which you can base this proposal?
I believe in this nation, and I have no doubt. More than that, I think, and I also have evidence to back it up, that if you give the young Israeli the option to join the army at a high salary, for a meaningful army service, as a professional.

But that is not volunteering, that is something else. 
The person is still volunteering of their own free will.

But then he receives a salary like a mercenary army, like a mercenary.
A combat pilot is not a mercenary. The main point is that we understand each other. I am talking about a situation in which the Israeli youngster can choose an army service that is significant, meaningful, and professional. I am talking about a service in which the soldier can gain an academic degree while serving in the army. More importantly, they will be able to attain a high social status, unlike in the United States. Instead, you get a salary, an education, and social status. We will have a situation in which the army can sift through potential draftees, choosing only those who it really needs, so that we can get a professional army, and more importantly, there will be no coercion.

You belong to the ruling political party, a party that you are slowly taking over, so why don’t you lead this initiative?
I am trying.

Is this something that you will really push through if you are in the Knesset?
Guest: I do not remember him ever presenting an agenda other than the one he has been presenting within the Likud. In my opinion, by proposing this initiative you’re in effect launching a campaign. 

My problem, and I have to thank you for this, is that most of the time I am only asked about the settlements.
If you noticed, we didn’t even say one word about Migron [an outpost under threat of destruction] with you.
Thank you. But, if you dig a little deeper, you will see that you can invite me every morning to talk about a different issue, whether it is education, economy, or any other issue. As long as the theme is liberty.

By the way, your idea has a lot of supporters. 
A lot of supporters. I can gladly say that there are a lot of supporters. I found out that there is a movement that I did not know about before, called the New Liberalist Movement, which has made this issue their main agenda. I even went with them to a protest last week.

Were they happy that you came?
Yes. This is a subject that is hard to understand at first because we’ve become so used to the idea of a people’s army.

I just want to hear what you have to say to the ultra-Orthodox who, as of now, according to the current law, are not shouldering their share of the burden. Are you right now calling for the ultra-Orthodox to join the army, and help push through this effort? 
I am calling on the ultra-Orthodox to do all that they can to integrate in all aspects of Israeli society, whether it’s joining the work force, education, and joining the army. But I am completely against coercion, against forcing them to join the army against their free will.

But, as of now, there is no choice. There is a law, and this law is currently not being enforced. 
As of now everyone is “violating” the law. [Supreme Court Justice Dorit] Beinisch turned everyone into criminals, including the army, by the way. The army does not want to draft all of the ultra-Orthodox, even though it has to— so it is violating the law. The ultra-Orthodox, who have not joined the army in great numbers, are also criminals. In other words, we have created a situation that does not match reality. This is not the way to open up Israeli society to the ultra-Orthodox.

In short, when will we see you at the head of the Likud?
I hope as soon as possible.

Okay. Thank you. It was fascinating.

No comments: