Netanyahu: I’ll boost Haredi numbers in IDF ‘by consensus’; implies ministers seeking elections would be helping the enemy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at an evening press conference, February 29, 2024. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at an evening press conference, February 29, 2024. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Continuing his prepared remarks at a press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will seek a consensual arrangement under which more Haredim will carry out military service.

He says opposes dramatically raising the number of days reservists can be asked to serve.

He says, first, that he is preparing legislation to provide more benefits for soldiers on completion of their IDF service, including allocating land at reduced prices in the Galilee and Negev for them to build homes. In some cases, the reductions will be of 90-95 percent — so the land “will be almost free of charge.”

He says he respects the Haredim who study Torah and those who volunteer for emergency rescue services, but that one “cannot ignore what the public widely sees as the discrepancy in the division of the burden” by which almost all ultra-Orthodox youngsters do not serve.

“The Haredi public recognizes this today,” he says, “and is ready to change the situation.”

Taking aim at Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, without naming him, Netanyahu says: “We will set out goals” for an agreement “by consensus” to raise the number of Haredi recruits.

“Anyone who wants absolute agreement won’t get any agreement,” he says, a day after Gallant said he would only support an IDF draft law that is backed by all coalition parties.

He hints that Gallant and the leaders of the National Unity Party, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, who are also pushing a proposal for the Haredim to be drafted and who he also does not name, could be using the issue as a means to try to bring down the government. Were any element in the coalition to push “extreme demands” regarding Haredi conscription, that could be enough to trigger its collapse and new elections.

“General elections would mean the end of the war, [and] the defeat of Israel,” he says.

Israel would be paralyzed for 6-8 months, the government’s hands would be tied in the battles against Hamas in Rafah and against Hezbollah, and for the hostages, and there would be divisions within the ranks of IDF fighters, he claims.

Holding general elections mid-war would constitute “devastating gunfire within our national armored personnel carrier,” he says. “General elections during war would spell defeat for Israel,” he repeats.

This, he claims, “is precisely the dream of [Hamas leader] Yahya Sinwar, precisely the dream of Hezbollah and precisely the dream of Iran… They’re just waiting for it.”

“All the cabinet members know this,” he adds, implying that ministers seeking elections would thus be acting in the interests of the enemy.

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