Gallant calls for drafting ultra-Orthodox in order to attain Gaza war aims

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2024. (Screen capture)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2024. (Screen capture)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant calls for all parts of Israeli society, most notably the ultra-Orthodox, to be drafted to military service, citing a “national need” during the ongoing war.

For decades, ultra-Orthodox Israelis have held a near-blanket exemption from national service in favor of religious studies.

“To attain the goals of the war, to handle the threats from Gaza, from Lebanon, from Judea and Samaria, and to prepare for the emerging threats from the east, we need unity and partnership in decisions about our future,” Gallant says in a press conference.

“Today, there is a real national need for the extension of the service time of the standing army soldiers, and in extending the service period of the reservists,” he says, referring to plans announced by the IDF earlier this month to lengthen the amount of time soldiers serve.

“The war has proved that everyone must go ‘under the stretcher,'” Gallant says.

He says the “burden of service” has been a challenge for 75 years, which now comes “in a time of war we have not known for 75 years.”

“Therefore, we are required to make agreements and decisions, which we haven’t made in 75 years,” he says.

“As the defense minister of the State of Israel, who commands the troops to the battlefield, I turn to my colleagues in the coalition and government, to all members of the Knesset, and to the entire public, and say: The State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people. The Torah protected the people of Israel throughout 2,000 years of exile.

“We cherish and appreciate those who dedicate their lives to learning the Torah. However, without physical existence, there is no spiritual existence. Our security challenges demonstrate that everyone must bear the burden [of service]. All parts of society,” Gallant says.

Gallant says he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister Benny Gantz, heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties, and other coalition members, telling them that “it is possible and important to reach an agreed framework for a draft [law].”

“I call on the prime minister, to lead a joint course with all coalition factions, and reach the necessary agreements on the draft law. I hope there are also parts of the opposition that will join the framework that will be formulated,” he says.

Gallant says drafting all parts of society is “essential to winning the war.”

“This is not a partisan issue. It is not a sectoral matter. This is a national-security matter of utmost importance,” he adds.

The defense minister indicates that he will not back a new Haredi draft bill unless it has the support of war cabinet members Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, all but putting to bed efforts to pass legislation solely with the support of the original right-wing coalition.

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