Creating new perspectives since 2009

Netanyahu revives Bill to lower military service exemption age for Haredi Yeshiva students

May 16, 2024 at 2:54 pm

Israeli forces intervene with water cannon to Ultra-Orthodox Jews as they protest against mandatory military service in Jerusalem, on September 29, 2022. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced yesterday that he would revive a 2022 Bill aimed at lowering the age of exemption from military service for Haredi yeshiva students.

“In order to bridge the differences and bring about a broad consensus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to advance the conscription law that passed its first reading in the previous Knesset” and bring it to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The statement added,”The law was prepared by the defence establishment after thorough staff work and submitted by the then-Defence Minister, Benny Gantz. The Prime Minister calls on all factions that supported the proposal in the previous Knesset to join the proposal.”

This announcement followed weeks of negotiations between Haredi representatives and the Prime Minister’s office, coming just a day before the final deadline for the State to update the High Court of Justice on its plans to conscript military-age Haredim men.

READ: Israel committing genocide in Gaza, new study concludes

According to The Times of Israel, his announcement drew immediate condemnation, including from Israeli war cabinet minister, Benny Gantz, who dismissed the move as a “political manoeuvre”.

He wrote on X that the Bill, which passed its first reading in 2022 and was intended as the basis for a comprehensive “Israeli Service Plan” requiring all sectors of Israeli society to perform national service, was “not enough then” and is “irrelevant to the reality after October 7.”

He also addressed him in a video stating: “The law you wish to bring in is not what was outlined by the previous government that I led, it is not the law that I asked to be promoted in the current Knesset, and it certainly is not a law that reflects the security needs of the State of Israel after Oct 7.”

“After October 7, the IDF needs soldiers, the country needs servants to the State of Israel and not those who wish to further their political gains”, he continued. “If you continue on this path, you may solve a political problem, but the State of Israel will continue to have a conscription problem and an issue with national fairness in the IDF,” Gantz said.

The committee meeting was scheduled for Thursday to ensure the State could include it in a response to the High Court by the deadline. The court had given the State until 16 May to outline the steps taken to draft Haredi men into the IDF. On 2 June, the court will hear arguments on whether to make a temporary order, which mandates drafting Haredi men and halting funding to yeshivot for students without legal exemptions, permanent.

If passed, the legislation would reduce the exemption age for mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students from 26 to 21 while “very slowly” increasing the rate of ultra-Orthodox enlistment.

The Haredim, who account for approximately 12 per cent of Israel’s population, do not serve in the military and devote themselves to full-time Torah study.

The Israeli political system is witnessing several divisions, including major disagreements among the ministers of the right-wing coalition led by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on the one hand, and the Ministers of the State camp led by Gantz, on the other.

WATCH: US-made bombs scattered among Gaza’s ruins