Israeli supermodels in catwalk spat over draft-dodging

Leonardo DiCaprio's ex-girlfriend is accused by a fellow model of avoiding her national service

She has already been criticised by the military for her decision to avoid the draft in her native Israel, but now a former girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio is under attack from a fellow supermodel.

Months after a retired general rebuked Bar Refaeli for side-stepping her compulsory national service, the "draft-dodger" has been berated by Esti Ginzburg.

Unlike Refaeli, the model from Tel Aviv was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for her mandatory two-year period of duty in July.

But the khaki-clad 19-year-old recently took time out of her training programme to criticise Refaeli and others who avoid the army.

Ginzburg told an Israeli newspaper it was her duty to enlist. "In order to contribute and help, in order to be part of the state," she said, "enlisting is a duty, not a choice. There are a million things I don't feel like doing, but I do them because I have to. Military service is part of the things I believe in, the values I was raised on."

The catwalk spat between two of Israel's biggest celebrities has reignited the debate over the apparent ease with which conscription can be dodged.

It is thought that about a third of the eligible population in Israel now avoid being called up for national service and that figure is expected to pass 50 per cent by 2025.

The IDF is worried that the fall in personnel will affect the country's ability to defend itself.

Marital status and religious beliefs can be used to evade the system. Refaeli, 24, was criticised when it emerged that she had married a relative in 2004 and then divorced soon after to avoid being called up. A year later she began a four-year relationship with Titanic star DiCaprio that ended in July.

Her reluctance to serve led to a backlash at home, where retired Major-General Elazar Stern called for a boycott of the companies whose products feature Refaeli because she was "a draft-dodger".

The Sports Illustrated 2009 cover girl further enraged her compatriots when she told a US magazine last year: "I really wanted to serve in the IDF, but I don't regret not enlisting, because it paid off big time. That's just the way it is; celebrities have other needs."

Not surprisingly, perhaps, Refaeli has now made Los Angeles her permanent home.

Ginzburg, on the other hand, has found the time to pursue her acting career while working at an IDF reception base, where one of her duties is to explain to new recruits why joining up is so important.

She is expected to take a part in Twelve, the latest film by Joel Schumacher, alongside the young American actor and Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford, with whom she has been romantically linked.

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