Netanyahu’s Charedi draft bill progresses through the Knesset

Opposition figures have said the current bill does not go far enough


TOPSHOT - Israeli police disperse Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and youth during a protest against Israeli army conscription outside an army recruitment office in Jerusalem on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a Charedi draft bill on Thursday first put forward by current Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz in the previous government.

“To bridge the differences and bring about a broad consensus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to advance the conscription bill that passed the first reading in the previous Knesset,” the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday.

“The bill was prepared by the defense establishment … and submitted by then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz,” it added.

The move was reportedly meant to prevent Gantz’s opposition. “The prime minister calls on all factions that supported the proposal in the previous Knesset to join the proposal,” the PMO said.

But Gantz came out against his own bill.

“The State of Israel needs soldiers and not political exercises that tear the people apart in times of war,” he said on Wednesday.

“The temporary mediation law that was submitted and which the prime minister wishes to pass now was not satisfactory then, and is not relevant today in the reality after October 7,” Gantz said

The committee approved government support for the legislation despite opposition from Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who said that there is a legal obstacle to promoting the bill, citing a changed situation.

“The proposal ignores the new and urgent needs of the IDF, lacks factual infrastructure and ignores the position of the minister of defense,” she said.

Senior coalition officials admitted that the odds of the bill passing into law are slim to nonexistent, and the real goal is to gain time.

Netanyahu’s government is under a court-mandated deadline to submit a haredi draft bill. In March, the prime minister warned his coalition that if it didn’t bring a bill forward, it would fall.

When the bill passed its first reading in the Knesset under the previous government, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who is a member of the coalition, called it “a despicable and disgraceful proposal.” Gafni has not yet responded to the current effort.

Shas chairman and Netanyahu confidante Aryeh Deri at the time called it an “offensive law whose sole purpose is to harm the members of the yeshivah and to exclude the youth from their studies.”

Deri is reportedly behind the effort to push the bill now.

The bill would lower the age of exemption from mandatory service for Charedi, or ultra-Orthodox, yeshivah students from 26 to 21, in an effort to get more Charedi men to enter the IDF.

It would also gradually increase Charedi enlistment, setting an ultra-Orthodox conscription target of 35% of male students by 2036.

If the targets are not met, large fines will be placed on the yeshivahs that do not send their students.

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