Despite opposition, the Israeli Knesset passes the reintroduction of the ultra-orthodox enlistment law

The controversial ‘ultra-orthodox’ recruitment law pertaining to yeshiva students’ military service was adopted by the Israeli Parliament Knesset.

Early on Tuesday (local time), the parliamentarians voted 63-57 to grant “continuity” to a measure.

This occurs in the midst of Gaza’s continuing fight with Hamas.

The decision was to continue the legislative process at the same spot where it ended, saving the current session from having to start again. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will now consider the bill in order to prepare it for the second and third readings that it has to pass in order to become law.

The plan, if eventually enacted, would “very slowly” raise the rate of ultra-Orthodox conscription and reduce the age at which Haredi yeshiva students are now exempt from required service from 26 to 21. This was reported by Times of Israel.

Nonetheless, a number of coalition members have voiced their opposition to the proposal.

Likud’s Yoav Gallant, the minister of defense, ultimately opposed the measure. He left the plenum shortly after delivering his vote.

Gallant subsequently wrote on X, “The people of Israel long for agreements – national changes are carried out with broad agreement.” “We must not engage in petty politics at the expense of IDF soldiers.”

The decision was the source of much division within the coalition, as opposition leader Yair Lapid called it “one of the most despicable moments of humiliation of the Israeli Knesset ever.”

“The government recklessly approves a legislation of avoidance and insubordination in the middle of yet another day of intense combat in the Gaza Strip. Everything is political. Zero values,” a statement from Lapid said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the coalition were accused by MK Benny Gantz’s National Unity party of going back to its pre-October 7 strategy, only one day after Gantz resigned from the Israeli cabinet.

National Unity claimed in a statement that “[Netanyahu and the coalition] are fighting to perpetuate the [Haredi] exemption from serving, while IDF soldiers are fighting for the country.” “It is not too late to pass a broad and comprehensive outline that will satisfy the needs of security and society.”

The decision on Tuesday took place in the midst of a heated legal and public controversy about broad “ultra-Orthodox” draft exemptions, and while the High Court of Justice is deliberating over several petitions calling for the urgent drafting of young Haredi males.

For decades, military-age ultra-Orthodox males have been able to escape being drafted into the Israel Defense Forces by enrolling in yeshivas to study the Torah and securing successive one-year deferrals from duty until they reach the age of exemption from the military. The High Court declared in 2017 that collective exemptions from military duty in large quantities are unlawful and discriminatory. Since then, as the Times of Israel observed, successive administrations have repeatedly asked the court to postpone the decision while attempting in vain to enact new laws to resolve the issue.

In March, the court decided that because the legal basis for supporting Haredi yeshivas whose pupils are eligible for the draft had expired, the state must stop funding them. The upshot is that Haredi political parties have given military exemptions and yeshiva finance first priority, giving Netanyahu a serious electoral issue.

After Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox allies were unable to reach a consensus on legislation to recruit members of their group, Netanyahu said last month that he was in favor of moving the measure forward.

Times of Israel reports that Netanyahu seems to be attempting to convince the High Court that he is working on the enlistment problem in order to gain some time and maintain the support of his Haredi coalition allies.

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