newsIsrael at War

PM outraged after Gallant sides with Gantz on haredi conscription

Netanyahu was angry that Gallant is leaving him to deal with the ultra-Orthodox parties on this matter, threatening the coalition.

IDF soldiers from an ultra-Orthodox section of the Givati Infantry Brigade pray during a training exercise near Beit Shemesh, Sept. 27, 2017. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
IDF soldiers from an ultra-Orthodox section of the Givati Infantry Brigade pray during a training exercise near Beit Shemesh, Sept. 27, 2017. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently conveyed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that on the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription, he would support whatever Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz proposed.

It is understood that the prime minister is outraged over this decision, and in a conversation about Gallant with his confidants, he threatened to delay the passage of the law to extend the mandatory military service in the IDF for conscripted and reserved troops—a measure that is important for the army and Gallant.

Netanyahu was angry that Gallant was essentially leaving him to deal alone with the haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) on this matter, threatening his coalition. 

Gantz’s National Unity Party believes its presence in a wartime government poses an opportunity and an obligation to promote legislation that would introduce mandatory service for hared men. haredi parties have been putting up roadblocks against the law, seeking to discuss the conscription issue after the municipal elections this Tuesday.

The hot potato of haredi conscription came up again after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara said in her response to the High Court of Justice that if primary legislation for exempting haredim from conscription was not advanced by April, the state would be required to begin conscripting them. Currently, the exemption for haredim is in effect due to a Cabinet resolution from the summer, which froze haredi conscription in order to advance legislation on the matter, but the decision is set to expire at the end of March. For its part, the government did not advance the issue due to the ongoing war in Gaza.

In the current public mood, the issue of ultra-Orthodox conscription complicates things for Netanyahu, Religious Zionism Party leader Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit Party head Itamar Ben-Gvir. On the one hand, their voters demand that haredim share the burden of service in light of the war; on the other, all three want to maintain coalition unity and not clash with the haredi parties.

Senior government officials believe that they will try to delay the haredi conscription issue again, whether by requesting an extension from the High Court or by finding a legal construct through the authority of the defense minister, thereby leaving the situation as is.

Another possibility is to reach a compromise with the haredim. One option is to raise their conscription quotas in law, but such a solution would fail to satisfy the anger among Israelis who have demanded equality of burden and are unwilling to accept the increased burden on sectors already bearing it for years.

Senior coalition members admit that even without a change in haredi conscription, the law to extend the mandatory service for other sectors will eventually pass, because it is an important and urgent military need.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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