IDF, Israel-Gaza War

Divisive Draft: Israel's Haredi military law sparks intense Knesset debate

Intense debate about Haredi draft divides Knesset and leads to mutual hurling of accusations.

Minister Benny Gantz, Minister Gadi Eisenkot and National Unity Party members visit the Ein Kshatot Heritage site in the southern Golan Heights on April 18, 2024. (Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90)

In a heated session at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the proposed ultra-Orthodox draft law has sparked yet another a contentious debate, with key figures expressing starkly contrasting views on its potential implications for national security and societal integration.

Former IDF Chief of Staff and National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot minced no words in his critique, labeling the current draft law as a profound risk to the IDF's operational capabilities. As reported by the Times of Israel, Eisenkot asserted, "If this law passes, I see a great risk to the IDF's ability to continue to fulfill its mission," highlighting concerns over the law's adequacy in addressing the country's security needs in the wake of recent escalations.

Eisenkot's sentiments were echoed by calls for a comprehensive overhaul from Education Minister Yoav Kisch of Likud, who urged the government to consider an alternative approach outlined in a Defense Ministry report. This report proposes a framework aimed at effectively integrating ultra-Orthodox individuals into national service "in an understanding, accommodating, accepting" manner, emphasizing the importance of both meeting military manpower requirements and fostering genuine integration within the ultra-Orthodox community.

“This bill is a huge opportunity that we must not miss ... The truth is simple, the army needs the ultra-Orthodox sector," Kisch said.

The proposed legislation, which seeks to redefine conscription requirements for the ultra-Orthodox community, has become a focal point of contention within the coalition government. Advocates argue for the necessity of increasing military readiness amid ongoing security threats, while critics caution against potential societal divisions and operational disruptions.

As deliberations continue, the Knesset faces a pivotal decision on the future of Israel's conscription policy. Its implications extend beyond military preparedness to also include broader societal cohesion and the equitable distribution of civic responsibilities.

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