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Israel: The War Within

In Israel, compulsory military service has been the backbone of the beleaguered Jewish State since its founding in 1948.  All Israeli's upon reaching the age of 18 must serve a two or three year term in the Tzva Hahagana LeYisra'el — Israel Defense Force.  However there is a fierce debate on-going regarding just who will fill these ranks.  Currently Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men are allowed exemption from military service on grounds that they will instead be pursuing religious study.

However earlier this month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began the process of reform that would do away with such exemptions.   Netanyahu remarked,  "Everyone must bear the burden. We will provide positive incentives to those who serve and negative incentives to draft dodgers."    These actions were celebrated by reformers within Israel who argue that the defense of Israel is the duty of all its citizens.

Netanyahu's actions though have threatened to tear his government to shreds, as Kadima Party Chairman Shaul Mofaz announced on July 17th that his party would in fact vacate the coalition because of these measures.

"With great regret I must say that there is no alternative but to retire from this government," said Mofaz. "This issue is fundamentally important to us. I was determined to reach an understanding with Netanyahu, but we simply cannot carry on."

Those in the defense of the military exemptions claim that these provisions are essential to maintain the vitality of the Jewish faith and of greater Israeli culture.  Currently some 60,000 Israeli men fall under these exemption guidelines, many of which receive state funding as part of their religious studies.

Christiane Amanpour reports this week from Jerusalem on just how this divisive fight will shape the Jewish State of Israel moving forward.

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