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Exemption from service for Israeli draft evaders abroad

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Michelle Long

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Visiting Israel as a draftee with dual citizenship / living abroad?

Can Israeli draft evaders abroad receive an exemption from military service? This is an extremely relevant issue for many young Israelis of recruitment age who live outside of Israel. Every Israeli citizen or resident aged 18 is a candidate to be conscripted into the IDF, even if they reside outside of Israel. As such, being unknowingly designated as a “draft evader” or even a deserter is entirely possible. Our Israeli law firm deals with matters of immigration to and from Israel. We are often approached by young clients or their parents who came in Israel for the first time in years, and were surprised to discover at the border crossing that they are considered candidates for military service or draft dodgers. Someone accused of draft evasion or desertion stands in danger of standing trial, possibly resulting in a criminal record. Thankfully, the problem can usually be dealt with by addressing the appropriate channels and arranging for the exemption from military service for persons who do not reside in Israel. In this article, Attorney Michael Decker will explain how to clarify the status of Israeli draft evaders abroad.

A chance to freely visit Israel for Israeli draft evaders abroad (April-May 2018)

Israeli draft evaders abroadFrom 01/04/18 to 15/05/18 (April 4th to May 15th), it is possible for persons accused of evading their military service, to enter Israel without being detained. As part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel,the IDF allows for a one-time and exceptional visit to Israel for Israeli draft evaders abroad.

It is important to note that deserters are not included in this arrangement. Anyone who started their military service before traveling abroad without authorization are in danger of arrest if they enter Israel. Persons who were designated for military service, but are not listed as draft evaders will be delayed at the entrance to Israel and will not be able to leave the country before settling the conditions of their military service vis-a-vis the IDF. Before arriving in Israel, we recommend that everyone check their status(draft evader / deserter / designated for service) with the appropriate authorities. Israeli draft evaders abroad can contact the military attache of an Israeli consulate to check their status.

A similar exemption was offered between the 09/09/18 and October 10, 2018. In this instance, both draft dodgers and deserters were given the opportunity to visit their families in Israel. It remains to be seen whether the same offer will be extended in the next holiday season.

But what happens after the end of the Independence celebrations? How to arrange your status with the IDF? How to receive an exemption from military service while abroad?

Military service requirements for Israeli citizens / residents abroad and dual citizens:

All citizens / permanent residents of Israel are candidates for security service under the Defense Service Law [Consolidated Version], 1986. Dual citizens, those residing abroad, or even young people who have lived their entire lives outside Israel are candidates for service. A candidate for conscription living abroad – whether he  or she has lived there for years, or whether he oe she left Israel to avoid the draft – who does not arrange his status vis-a-vis the IDF, is considered to be “draft evader / defaulter abroad”. Entry into Israel for draft evaders is problematic. When visiting Israel, a candidate for military service may be detained and required to remain in Israel until their status is settled. If they ignore an IDF draft order, or travel abroad after receiving the order, they may be tried as an evader from military service or a deserter (if they started military service before traveling abroad, starting when they undergo the sorting process at the Bakum). Desertion is treated as a criminal offense, and a conviction can lead to possible imprisonment and a criminal record.

In light of the above, it is important that every candidate for military service take care to arrange their status with the military attache in the nearest Israeli consulate before entering Israel. Not every Israeli  diplomatic representative has a military attache. There are cases in which embassy employees who are not familiar with the matter claimed that the only option available for Israeli draft evaders abroad is to return to Israel, surrender to the authorities, stand trial, and serve the remainder of their military service. That is not the case. Anyone whose “center of life” (how Israeli authorities refer to a domicile) is abroad, can, with a little help from qualified specialists, receive an exemption from Israel’s security service, even after receiving an order to be drafted and ignoring it. There’s no need to have a trial, spend time military prison, or have a permanent criminal record.

Regulation of military status at an Israeli consulate

A person whose center of life is abroad – was born abroad or lived there for most of their life – may contact a military attache at the nearest Israeli mission, with a request to postpone service or release from the requirement of military service. They must prove that their center of life is not in Israel; that is, that they live, work, pay taxes, and plan to spend the foreseeable future outside Israel. If they can convince the military authorities that they did not move abroad simply to avoid enlistment, chances are high that the request will be accepted. The evader must present documents proving that their life center is abroad – that they lived abroad for a number of years, proof of studies, marriage certificate, salary slips, rent of apartment or real estate ownership certificate.

Possible reasons for postponement of the draft are studies abroad, family illness, etc. For those who return to Israel after the postponement period and begin military service, the duration of the service will be calculated according to their age when returning to Israel.

The main question is whether the draft evader’s “center of life” was in Israel at the time of the receipt of the IDF draft order, not when contacting the attaché to arrange status. On the other hand, if the parents (or parent who has custody) return to Israel while the candidate for military service stays abroad, the system considers the candidate’s life center to be in Israel. (Unless they left the country before age 13 or returned after the age of 21).

Who is entitled to receive exemption from service?

All residents and citizens of Israel, even those living abroad, are candidates for military service and must arrange their status in advance if they wish to visit Israel. However, the IDF recognizes three categories of candidates that are supposed to be automatically exempt from service. Provided they can prove they belong to one of the categories below, they do not have to apply for exemption on an individual basis. The categories are: “Son of emissaries”, “Son of emigrants” and “Foreign-born citizen”.

Foreign-born Israeli citizen — “at least one of whose parents at his birth had Israeli citizenship, and whose permanent residence continuously from his birth was abroad, provided that his parents didn’t live in Israel from the time of his birth until he reached the age of 16

A son of emigrants — “an Israeli citizen who moved abroad with his parents before he reached the age of 16, on condition that he lived abroad together with his parents until he reached the age of 21 (18 if their family left Israel before the child reached the age of 13)”.

Son of emissaries — “a draft candidate who lives abroad with his parents or with one of them who is representing a government, public, private or other entity of Israel”.

Representatives of these categories are entitled to visit Israel for up to 120 cumulative days per year, without losing their entitlement to exemption from security service. In addition, they will be able to take advantage of their right to a one “year of residence” in Israel without losing the exemption, as long as they do not spend more than a year in Israel. A person who lives in Israel beyond that will be considered as if they have returned to live in Israel, and therefore, a candidate for the IDF draft.

Contact our law office in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to receive legal assistance for Israeli draft evaders abroad and to help clear your status with the IDF

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