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Benjamin Netanyahu Makes Surprise Announcement on Plan to Pass Law to Draft Ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox Haredim

Ultra-Orthodox Pray at the Kotel

The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu is working with the members of his coalition government to pass through the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – a new law that would allow for the draft of Israel’s Haredim (ultra-orthodox). The work on passage of a law, said his office, will begin on Thursday.

Netanyahu is in a difficult position politically on the matter since he depends on the combined 18 votes (out of a total of 120 seats in the Knesset) of the Haredi parties to maintain his slim majority in the Knesset and keep his coalition government alive.

Israel has national compulsory military service. However, the ultra-orthodox in Israel have been able to avoid the draft by benefitting from studying in yeshivas (Tora academies). The deferments have no time limit so they are, in effect, draft exemptions for the members of that community.

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s hand was forced on this issue by Israel’s Supreme Court, which ruled in the past that the deferments as a policy were undemocratic and, as such, must be ended. The court, however, gave the Knesset the option to legitimize the deferments in law, but decades passed with no government able to do so.

Then, in March, the Supreme Court ordered the government end any and all subsidies provided to the Haredi schools for students who are using military deferments as well as government funding for such people individually through government social welfare programs.

The Netanyahu government’s coalition agreement included promises to the ultra-orthodox parties that the current government would pass such a law, and the Haredim have threatened to quit the coalition if such a law is not passed. However, the mood of the Israeli public changed dramatically after the Hamas massacre of October 7 and Israelis today will not tolerate such a new law. And many members of the coalition government, including ones from Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud Party, have said they will not vote for it.

So, Netanyahu is now trying to convince the ultra-orthodox parties not to bring down his government over this issue. To that end, his office issued the following statement:

“In order to bridge the disagreements and bring about a broad consensus,” read the statement, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to advance the conscription law that passed its first reading in the previous Knesset.”

The law was prepared by the security establishment after thorough staff work and was submitted by then Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is currently a member of Israel’s special war cabinet.

Benjamin Netanyahu directed that legislation on applying continuity to this draft law be submitted to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation tomorrow.

The Prime Minister calls on all factions who supported the draft proposal in the previous Knesset to join the current proposal.

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