Gantz’s party says Likud pushing Haredi exemption law despite High Court ruling ‘a historical stain’

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Benny Gantz’s National Unity party responds harshly to the Likud’s criticism of the High Court of Justice, which today ruled that there is no legal basis for excluding ultra-Orthodox men from the IDF draft and that those who are eligible for service must be drafted.

The opposition party, which until recently was part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime coalition, takes issue with Likud’s contention that the “real solution” to the enlistment issue is not a court judgement but rather “the completion of the historic conscription law which is currently being prepared for a second and third reading in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”

“A lie that is repeated time and time again does not become the truth,” the National Unity states, asking “if this law is so historic and correct, how come Prime Minister Netanyahu and the ultra-orthodox factions voted against it” when initially brought to the Knesset two years ago?

The coalition is currently working to pass a bill to lower the current age of exemption for yeshiva students from 26 to 21 and “very slowly” increase the rate of ultra-Orthodox conscription initially advanced by Gantz during the previous Naftali Bennett- Yair Lapid government. The legislation was revived by the Knesset earlier this month and members of Netanyahu’s Likud party have stated that the bill needs to be significantly revised before they will support it.

The National Unity party states that it only initially advanced the bill as a “bridging law” until a more comprehensive solution could be implemented and given the differing circumstances between the time of its initial proposal and the current war, its advancement now constitutes “a historical stain.”

When Gantz first presented the legislation in 2022, he insisted that it be accompanied by a plan to extend the requirement of national service to both ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis.

“The entire leadership, from the right and the left, and those who care about the State of Israel, the people’s army and Israeli society, must reach agreements based on the Israeli service outline, which will bring about a real solution, and not a temporary solution for the survival of the coalition,” National Unity states.

This February, Gantz presented an outline for the enlistment of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israeli army, which was ignored by Netanyahu.

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