enlistment bill

Defense Minister Gallant votes against Netanyahu’s increasingly unstable coalition

Ministers voting against coalition generally quit or are fired; bill would not actually increase Haredi IDF enlistment this year

Elad Malka

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant voted against an effort put forward by the Israeli government that would have only marginally increased Haredi enlistment in the IDF, in a dramatic political day in the Knesset Monday.

Gallant joined Benny Gantz, who departed the war cabinet in part over his own concerns that the government-proposed Haredi draft law did not go far enough, in voting against the government position.

When a minister votes against the government position, it is generally viewed as resignation or grounds for dismissal by the prime minister. However, there is no legal requirement for Gallant to quit or be fired from the government.

“It’s not too late to reach agreements,” Gallant said in the Knesset plenum, shortly before voting nay. “We must not engage in petty politics at the expense of soldiers.”

The Knesset’s continuity vote, held on Monday, was meant to resume legislative work that was curtailed due to the 2022 election. The bill in question set annual targets for Haredi enlistment and would reduce funding for yeshivas if those quotas are not met; the target for 2024 is 1,973 in the IDF, which has already been met according to Channel 12 News. In 2023, 66,000 Haredim were exempted from IDF service.

Gallant told the Security Cabinet last week that he authorized the IDF to begin calling up as many as 350,000 reservists by August, many of whom will be serving their third tour since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The bill is meant to address repeated Supreme Court orders requiring the government to conscript Haredim. Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara would not defend the government’s position before the court last week.

Gantz proposed the original bill when he was defense minister, intending for it to be an interim step towards a more comprehensive plan to enlist large numbers of Haredim into the IDF and civilian service. When Netanyahu announced plans to revive the proposal, Gantz said he opposed the legislation, arguing that it does not meet Israel’s post-Oct. 7 needs.

At least four Likud lawmakers planned to vote against the Haredi conscription bill. One, Tali Gotliv, announced her opposition, but then said she will back the legislation to spite left-wing protesters. Three others — Dan Illouz, Moshe Saada and Eli Dalal — tried unsuccessfully to enlist more Likud members to vote against the bill before reversing course; they are expected to announce that when the bill itself, as opposed to continuity, is up for a vote, they will oppose it unless it is drastically changed.

Some leading Haredi politicians who spoke out against the bill in 2022 — including Shas’ Aryeh Deri, who called the legislation “an attempt to harm yeshiva students,” and United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni, who called it “pathetic, humiliating, anti-Jewish, anti-Torah” — supported it on Monday.

In his remarks to the Knesset, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who supported the bill initially, accused the government on Monday of “encouraging draft-dodging in the middle of a war … [and] saying to its fighters that nothing interests us other than pathetic politics meant to leave … the prime minister of Israel in his job for a few more months.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman said that “a real Zionist doesn’t support draft-dodging. He serves in the army and in reserves until age 40 … after which he accompanies his sons and daughters to the enlistment office and is full of joy and pride at videos of heroism like the one we saw tonight” of IDF soldiers rescuing hostages.

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