Like many Israeli youths, G, as he is referred to, dreamed of becoming a pilot in the Israeli air force. The 18-year-old not only attained the high marks in school that are a prerequisite for acceptance as an air force cadet but took private flying lessons and was duly licensed. When he received a letter last week from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) expressing regret he could not be accepted on a cadet course, G had reason to believe the rejection had nothing to do with his qualifications but with his identity. He is an Israeli Arab. Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20 per cent of the population, are exempt from military service so as not to confront them, and the state, with the dilemma of split loyalties to the Jewish state or to their fellow Arabs across the border. Exceptions to this rule are the Druze, an offshoot Islamic sect, whose members participate fully in the IDF and have reached the rank of general, and Bedouin who serve primarily as trackers. Among the mainstream Arab Muslim population, only a few have volunteered to serve in the IDF over the years. G's family is among those who see no conflict between their identities as Arabs and Israelis. G's father said: 'After 60 years of the state's existence my son ought to be allowed to contribute like any other young person.' The letter from the IDF manpower division to G did not refer to his ethnicity and did not rule out a future application. For now, G decided to accept an IDF suggestion that he apply for a paratrooper's course. 'I've decided to join the IDF,' he told the newspaper Yediot Achronot. 'I'm aware of course that Israel is in a state of war with some of the Arab countries but I see myself as an Israeli in every way and I see my responsibility in defending it. I will execute any order I am given.' Asked whether he would accept an order to bomb a target in the Gaza Strip if he were to pass the pilots' course in the future, he said: 'Try me and see.'