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Knesset Revives Controversial Law Exempting Orthodox from Military Service

Mourning the loss of four soldiers in battle, the Knesset of Israel has revived a controversial law exempting Orthodox from military service.

controversial law exempting Orthodox from military service.
IDF soldiers killed fighting in Rafah on June 10, 2024. (from top left) Staff Sgt. Eitan Karlsbrun, Maj. Tal Pshebilski Shaulov, Sgt. Yair Levin and Sgt. Almog Shalom, (IDF)

On a night when the nation was mourning the loss of four soldiers in battles against Hamas in Rafah, the Knesset of Israel has revived a controversial law exempting Orthodox from military service. The final vote saw 63 in favor and 57 against the law.

Originally proposed by former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the law has been outdated due to evolving military needs post-war.

The current proposal aims to recruit 3,000 ultra-Orthodox over five years, with alternative plans suggesting the gradual enlistment of up to 50% of ultra-Orthodox youths within the same period.

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Defense Minister Yoav Galant was the sole coalition member opposing the law. His vote against the legislation prompted a sharp rebuke from Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Tzachi Braverman, who reportedly commented, “Insolent, he should be fired.”
Before the vote, Galant urged Likud members to seek consensus and avoid petty politics at the expense of soldiers. He later tweeted, “The people of Israel long for agreements – national changes are carried out with broad consensus.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the law, quoting ultra-Orthodox MK Moshe Gafni’s earlier condemnation of the legislation as “wretched, insulting, humiliating, anti-Jewish, anti-Torah.” Lapid accused the Knesset of prioritizing political survival over national values and military needs.

Broader Political and Public Reactions
Avigdor Lieberman, chairman of Israel Beitenu, questioned why ultra-Orthodox leaders oppose military service, branding the evasion as anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist. The state camp asserted that the coalition’s actions ignored the needs of both security and society, suggesting a return to past failures.

Yesh Atid’s chairman, Lapid, denounced the vote as a moment of profound humiliation for the Knesset, driven purely by politics and devoid of values. Lieberman further criticized the government on social media, accusing it of harming IDF soldiers and reservists for political gain.

Now moving to the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee chaired by MK Yuli Edelstein, who emphasized the need for a robust and efficient IDF and called for cooperation to meet military needs.

Knesset legal advisor Sagit Afik and government legal advisor Gali Beharve-Miara have outlined that the law will likely face major legal challenges. Afik suggested that a thorough legislative process may be necessary, which could involve starting over from the first reading to proactively address potential challenges in the High Court.

As the coalition navigates legal and societal objections, the future of this legislation will significantly impact Israel’s military and social landscape.



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