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Mar 25, 2024, 10:20am EDT
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

Netanyahu pressured to conscript ultra-Orthodox men

Insights from The Conversation, CNN, and Foreign Policy

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REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is at odds with some ministers over plans to conscript ultra-Orthodox men into the Israeli Defense Forces. All Israeli adults must serve in the nation’s army, but ultra-Orthodox Haredi men are exempt.

The Israeli Supreme Court had issued a deadline of the end of March for the government to resolve long-standing issues with Haredi conscription. Netanyahu’s proposed enlistment legislation for Haredi men still doesn’t mandate conscription for them, prompting fierce criticism from opposition members as well Netanyahu’s own coalition. Cabinet minister Benny Gantz has threatened to resign from his post if the legislation is passed, and defense minister Yoav Gallant has said he would not support it.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Conscription biggest threat to Netanyahu’s government

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Sources:  
CNN, Foreign Policy

Haredi parties keep Netanyahu’s coalition government afloat, and if a conscription bill moves forward, as many as 18 seats in the Israeli parliament are at risk, Haaretz columnist David Rosenberg wrotein Foreign Policy. Haredi men oppose a possible draft, but 70% of Jewish Israelis support their conscription, especially in the wake of Oct. 7, since huge numbers of reservists have been called up to serve. “Netanyahu may try to kick the can again by giving the High Court a plan for a Haredi draft that looks good on paper but is designed to fail,” Rosenberg noted. “The problem is that in the post-Oct. 7 reality, almost no one else would accept it.”

UItra-Orthodox make powerful political partners

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Source:  
The Conversation

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up around 14% of Israel’s population, and have been exempt from military service since the nation’s founding. Haredi Jews are excused so that they can study religious texts, and the ongoing conscription debate prompted one of Israel’s chief rabbis,Yitzhak Yosef, to say that if the government forced them to conscript they would “all go abroad,” Michael Brenner, a professor of Jewish history and culture, noted in The Conversation. Some Haredi men serve voluntarily, but there is currently no law requiring their service. Much of the government’s reluctance to conscript the ultra-Orthodox comes down to their political clout: “Israel’s governments have continued to tolerate this situation as ultra-Orthodox political parties became much-needed partners,” Brenner wrote.

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