Israeli minister plans to send troops into schools to boost conscription

Soldiers would meet teachers in bid to encourage students to join up

The Israeli education minister has unveiled plans to take teams of senior army officers to high schools across the country to help teachers "foster the motivation" of pupils to serve in combat units following a decline in conscription rates.

In an announcement that infuriated liberals in a country where compulsory military service is still a fact of life, the right-wing Likud member Gideon Saar announced that about 200 meetings would be held between teams of senior army officers and teachers, with the stated intention of encouraging schools in "contributing to the society and community".

Saar, who has previously courted controversy by floating the idea of increasing education funding for schools where more people enlisted, also said that he would experiment with publishing individual schools' conscription rates, a move aimed at embarrassing those with a higher than average proportion of "draft dodgers".

Yossi Sarid, a former education minister who headed the liberal Meretz party, slammed the scheme. "I don't think there is any reason for military people to be involved in the education system," he said. "I don't think they have anything to teach the teachers."

The army has always been a given for Israeli high-school students, who screen for units and take tests as they approach graduation. In recent years, though, there has been growing right-wing criticism of draft evasion, coupled with dissatisfaction among part of the public that not serving in the army has become more accepted in the society than in the past.

"The idea is to have a discussion regarding subjects of values that are confronted in the schools. There will be a getting acquainted inside the teachers room on the subject of 'what the Israel Defense Forces means to me'," says Dorit Bar-Chai, an education ministry official involved in planning the programme. "If there are educators who did not serve in the army, that's okay, they can still speak about what the army means to them."

Mr Saar's plan is seen as significantly escalating the militarisation of Israeli education and is seen as a reflection of the conservative values prevailing under Mr Netanyahu. Former minister Yossi Sarid argued that the plan was launched because "Patriotism is always popular for politicians and patriotism in Israel means the army." He added:"This plan says something about the militaristic character of Israeli society. It is definitely getting more militaristic." And Hagit Gur-Ziv, a lecturer at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College in Tel Aviv, told Ha'aretz newspaper: "This shows there are no limits."

Ms Bar-Chai rebuffed the criticisms. "This is not militarism," she said, "because the two sides are dealing not with military matters but rather with matters of the society. It is a leadership-to-leadership discussion among people who are dealing with those of the same age group."

In August, Mr Saar gave his support to the idea of giving extra funding to schools with high military service rates, including a "personal financial disbursement to all the school staff, teachers, prinicipals and secretaries".

However, despite the ministry's giving the contrary impression, there does not seem to be a problem regarding motivating school-leavers to join combat units. According to army statistics published last week in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, the readiness of qualified new recruits to serve in front line combat units has reached its highest level in a decade, 73 per cent, with motivation increasing after last winter's Gaza war. On the other hand, a significantly smaller proportion of school-leavers now join the army than did in the past, down from 84 per cent in 1990 to 74 per cent last year.

Israeli Jewish men are required to serve for three years and women for two. About a quarter of those eligible to serve do not do so for reasons varying from pursuance of religious studies to medical exemptions.

In a separate development, a Jerusalem municipality committee yesterday approved construction of 900 new housing units to expand the Israeli settlement of Gilo, in occupied and annexed East Jerusalem. British officials last night said the move makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Jerusalem would be shared as a capital to both nations. "It is wrong and we oppose it," the officials said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living