Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law - Benefits for Discharged Soldiers

EducationEducation Military Service

The Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law offers substantial financial benefits for discharged soldiers pursuing higher education, with two primary articles. The first article (7a), passed through Amendment No. 12 on 26 June 2010, provides extensive benefits for registered university or college students who have completed their military service and are studying in designated "National Priority Areas," primarily located in the Naqab (Negev) and the Galilee, as well as Jewish-Israeli settlements in occupied West Bank. In accordance with ministerial regulations, this includes a tuition reimbursement of up to 9,521 NIS during the first year of studies at an academic institution, and preparatory academic course, among others. The regulations specify a total annual allocation of 20 million NIS for this fund from the state budget.

The second article (7.a(1)), which was expanded via Amendment No. 24 on May 23, 2022, is known as the “From Uniforms to Studies Law”. The article stipulates that certain categories of discharged soldiers, as defined in the law (as “combatants”), are eligible to receive financial support for university or college tuition fees amounting to three-quarters (75%) of the annual tuition fees.

The vast majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are exempt from military service and are thus excluded from receiving these generous state benefits. In this instance and in others, the state uses the military service criterion as a proxy for discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, as a means of channeling enormous financial, educational, and other benefits to Jewish Israelis using public funds.

Main provisions:


(A)  In this section - “Assistance Area” [is] a National Priority Area designated by the government according to the provisions of Chapter 26 of the Economic Efficiency Law, as proposed in sub-section (e), for the purpose of the instructions under this section, all or part of them.

(B)  As part of the fund, in addition to what is stated in section 7, there shall be a fund whose objectives are detailed below (in this section - “the fund for encouraging higher education studies in National Priority Areas”):

(1)   Encouraging discharged soldiers who meet the eligibility criteria determined for this purpose in sub-section (c) to study in institutions of higher education in National Priority Areas, by financing their tuition fees in those institutions.

(2)   Encouraging discharged soldiers who meet the eligibility criteria determined for this purpose in sub-section (c) and reside in National Priority Areas to pursue higher education studies, through programs and activities aimed at encouraging soldiers as mentioned in this section (in this section - “programs for encouraging higher education studies”), by, inter alia, financing their tuition fees in institutions of higher education, funding activities for preparation and training for higher education studies, including preparation and training in pre-academic preparatory programs in institutions of higher education.

7a(1). In this section [Applicable to the ‘From Uniform to Studies’ Fund provision] -

(a)   “An eligible discharged soldier” - A discharged soldier who was drafted for security service as defined by the Security Service Law [5762-2002] starting from the 23rd of Tamuz, 5773 (1 July 2013), and to whom one of the following applies:

(1)   He served at least 85% of the service period he is required to serve according to the Security Service Law, and upon his release from regular service, one of the following applied to him:

(a)   He served at least 75% of his service period as a combatant or served at least 70% of his service period as a combatant and was recognized as eligible for purposes of this section by the Head of the Human Resources Department in the Israel Defense Forces or someone authorized to do so, based on special circumstances that will be specified…

(b)   The request for family allowances for the soldier’s parents was approved, as defined in the military regulations;

(c)   He is a discharged lone soldier [without immediate family in Israel];

(d)   He is a member of the Arab population, including the Druze or the Circassians;

(e)   He was defined during his military service as a new immigrant, according to military orders.

(c) (1) A discharged soldier will be eligible for a contribution to the funding of his tuition fees from the “From Uniforms to Studies” fund in an amount equal to three-quarters of the annual tuition fee [ ].

Why is it discriminatory?

The state’s use of the criterion of military service has historically been used to condition eligibility for many economic benefits – not only tuition fees and other higher education benefits – relating to nearly all aspects of life, encompassing education, employment, allocation of land resources, housing loans, credit points for mortgages and other costs associated with purchasing a house, business and employment benefits, and other benefits. In practice, the state uses the military service criterion as a proxy for discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel since the majority of them are exempt from military service, for political and historical reasons. As a result, they are excluded from these state-allocated benefits and subject to discrimination on the basis of their national belonging. Moreover, the use of military service as a criterion employed by the state in order to exclude Palestinian citizens of Israel from lucrative state benefits has expanded over the last two decades, in clear breach of the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

The “From Uniforms to Studies Law” significantly increases the already wide socio-economic gap between Jewish Israeli and Palestinian students, turning Israeli universities into an apartheid space. Within this space, Palestinian students are forced into an even worse economic situation relative to their Jewish Israeli counterparts, as they are required to pay full tuition fees.

In order to fully comprehend the consequences of the law, it must be viewed within the context of the broader socio-economic policy of the state towards its Palestinian citizens, who comprise about 20% of the population. The mechanism of awarding benefits based on military service is part of decades-long, systemic policy of discrimination against Palestinian citizens in all areas of life, which has driven the growth of an enormous economic gap between them and the Jewish majority in Israel. According to the 2020 Poverty and Social Gaps Report, published by the National Insurance Institute of Israel, 56.6% of Palestinian families in Israel live in poverty, compared to 37.5% of Jewish families that live in poverty. The separate and unequal Palestinian education system in Israel in general lags behind the education system for Jewish citizens in terms of levels of educational attainment and receives far less public funding per school student compared to the Israeli Jewish education system.

This inequality and gross discrimination have been enabled by a series of judicial rulings that have legitimized the distribution of public state resources based on nationality, providing a legal seal of approval to institutionalized racial discrimination. Such a legal conception adopts the idea that the Jewish identity of the majority of Israel's citizens justifies the allocation of public state resources based on race and/or religious belonging.

International criticism:

  • In its report, Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, Amnesty International stated, “The Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law of 1994 and its later amendments enumerate a broad range of benefits exclusively available to former soldiers, including educational grants and housing…By linking benefits to military service, the state ensures that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are excluded from them.”
  • In its 2012 Concluding Observations the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted that, “The Committee notes with concern the adoption of laws and the consideration of bills conditioning social and economic benefits on completion of military service, thus excluding non-Jewish communities who are exempted from military service such as Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
  • In its 2013 report on Israel’s human rights record the United States Department of State stated that, “Citizens who did not perform military service enjoyed fewer societal and economic benefits and sometimes were discriminated against in hiring practices.”

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