Knesset Gives Final Approval to IDF Soldiers’ Tuition Bill

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz seen during a plenum session at the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Early Tuesday morning, the Knesset Plenum passed the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Bill in its second and third readings by a majority of 55-6 MKs.

The bill proposes that the “From Uniform to Studies” fund cover 75% of annual university tuition at an institution of higher education or an art institution, for three years of studies or four (for certain disciplines). The tuition will be funded for eligible soldiers who enlisted after the date June 30, 2013, and began their studies within three years from the end of the year of their discharge from regular or career service or reserve duty that lasted for over a year.

Eligibility will be granted to a soldier who served as a combatant for the period specified by law, a soldier whose parents received family payments, a lone soldier, a soldier who is a member of the Arab population, including the Druze and Circassian communities, or a new immigrant soldier. In addition, the head of the IDF Manpower Directorate will be authorized to determine that a soldier will be entitled to the benefit even if he or she did not complete their period of service or transferred to a rear-line position, if this resulted from an injury.

The explanatory notes state: “Starting from 2016, discharged IDF soldiers who served as combatants and discharged soldiers from special populations have been given additional assistance — beyond the amount stipulated by law — for the purpose of higher education studies, under the ‘From Uniform to Studies’ program. Within the program, which is operated by the Ministry of Defense’s Unit for Discharged Soldiers, participation is provided in funding the tuition fees of eligible discharged soldiers in institutions of higher education, from donations and bequest funds dedicated to this purpose.

“It is now proposed to regulate the ‘From Uniform to Studies’ program in legislation, and to finance it from the budget of the Foundation for Discharged Soldiers as defined by law, so that an additional benefit will be granted to eligible populations for the purpose of guiding eligible discharged soldiers towards acquiring higher education.

“The purpose of the additional benefit is to acknowledge discharged soldiers who performed combat roles in regular service. The additional benefit reflects additional compensation for serving in these roles, given the unique difficulty and life endangerment entailed by combat service. All this is beyond the rights currently granted by law to all soldiers. The benefit is also intended to encourage soldiers and candidates for defense service to serve in combat roles.”

The legislation originally sought to cover two-thirds of combat veterans’ tuition.

​Prior to the vote, Defense Minister MK Benny Gantz (Blue and White) presented the compromise proposal and said, “IDF soldiers have never been a part of the political game, and I think everyone here needs to look at himself and ask: what have we come to? I ask that we adopt the reservation to the bill, which was proposed also by the opposition, and increase the scholarship to 75% (of tuition costs).”

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