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Gantz threatens to quit over latest IDF Draft Law proposal - Netanyahu says no coalition without it

Latest ultra-Orthodox draft bill to be presented to public in April

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz hold a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv on Nov. 11, 2023. (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest outline for a new IDF draft bill has caused considerable turmoil in Israel’s fragile coalition government, with War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz threatening to leave if the legislation is passed and Defense Minister Gallant reiterating his calls for unity around the issue.

Gantz called the proposed bill that aims to increase recruitment among the ultra-orthodox Haredi population “a red line” and said he would quit the coalition he joined last October if it is approved.

“The people will not be able to put up with it, the Knesset will not be able to vote for it, and my colleagues and I will not be able to be members of the emergency government if such legislation passes the Knesset,” Gantz stated in a video message on Sunday evening.

He also called on Likud party ministers and Knesset members to “make your voices heard,” arguing that the bill was a “serious failure of values” that would give rise to further social turmoil because it would increase the load on current IDF reservists without contributions from the ultra-Orthodox community.

Despite ostensibly giving Netanyahu an ultimatum and threatening the survival of the government, some political observers noted that Gantz’s statement could actually help the prime minister, as the final passage of the law is expected to take several months and Gantz only threatened to quit if the bill was approved.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed within the coalition this week but will only be published in April, Israeli media reported. At the end of May, it will be presented to the government for approval and will be brought to the Knesset for legislation at the end of June, one month before the Knesset goes into recess.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also weighed in on the debate on Sunday, shortly before he departed for Washington, D.C. He criticized his coalition colleagues for not showing enough flexibility.

Reaching an agreement on the issue was “essential for the existence and success of the IDF,” Gallant said.

“I will not be a party to any proposal that isn’t agreed upon by all coalition factions — and under my leadership, the security system will not submit it for legislation. There is still time to come together and form a joint proposal,” Gallant added.

“I again call on the prime minister and Minister Benny Gantz to take advantage of the time that remains and forge a broad consensus on the issue of the conscription law, for the benefit of the IDF and the benefit of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, seems to be doubling down on his outline and sent a message to Likud ministers on Monday stating he will not give up on the controversial bill, according to KAN News.

Without the law, there will be no government, Netanyahu reportedly told his ministers, effectively threatening new elections over the issue.

Israeli media reported that the proposed outline does not set an annual quota for ultra-Orthodox men enlisting in the military, as many have demanded.

Instead, the exemption age would be raised from 26 to 35, a move the government hopes will incentivize ultra-Orthodox men to enlist instead of spending years in religious schools (yeshivas) before joining the labor market at age 35.

The bill also envisions the creation of special ultra-Orthodox battalions in the IDF and the gradual increase of the target number of enlisting ultra-Orthodox men by creating positive and negative financial incentives for army service.

The issue of ultra-Orthodox recruitment has gained renewed urgency since the outbreak of the war against the Hamas terror organization, as hundreds of thousands of reservists left their homes, businesses, and families to fight in Gaza for many months.

Meanwhile, the numerous casualties on Oct. 7, and since then, have added up to the loss of a complete IDF brigade, creating a noticeable manpower challenge amid Israel's longest war since the nation's 1948 Independence War.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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