Top Netanyahu Ally Draws Red Line

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Photo Credit: Israel Police, via Wikimedia

The Israeli Parliament is attempting to extend conscription to its Haredim population, very observant Jews, who have so far been exempted from it. Factions within Netanyahu’s faction, including Benny Gantz and Yoav Gallant, are threatening resignation if this section of Israeli society continues to not share the burden of war fighting alongside other Israelis.

Haredim Jews, ultra-Orthodox, are overwhelmingly poor and large welfare recipients. The original intent following the Holocaust was for these Jews to carry on the religious traditions that were almost lost, and therefore be taken care of by the state. Times of Israel says:

Calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outline for a Haredi draft law a “red line” and a threat to national cohesion, National Unity leader Benny Gantz on Sunday threatened to exit the coalition if the controversial legislation is approved.

“The people will not be able to put up with it, the Knesset will not be able to vote for it, and my colleagues and I will not be able to be members of the emergency government if such legislation passes the Knesset,” Gantz, a member of the key war cabinet, declared in a video message posted online on Sunday evening.

The Israeli Supreme Court found that the Haredim as a whole could not be exempted from mandatory service based on equal rights as citizens. America, who has religious exemptions for combat military service, has never had close to 14% of its male population exempted from national service in times of crisis. CNN explains the history behind the exemption:

Israel has, since its founding, exempted Haredim from mandatory military service. In 1998, the Supreme Court ripped up the longstanding exemption, telling the government that allowing Haredim to get out of conscription violated equal protection principles. In the decades since, successive governments and Knessets have tried to solve the issue, only to be told again and again by the court that their efforts were illegal.

Netanyahu may not need Gallant and Gantz’s support to kick the can down that road, as he could still command majority support in the Knesset with his pre-October coalition. But the political consequences could still be profound, and lead his wartime coalition partners to resign, Malach said – potentially setting off a cascade of resignations.

Israelis are largely united by being Jewish, but subgroups differ widely in religious observance. Another fracture which is now mostly healed is between Jews from Europe and those from the Islamic World in North Africa and the Middle East. This war has tested the resolve of Israelis, but this law will likely cause further cleavages one way or another.

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