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Political crisis brewing as Israeli attorney general orders IDF to start recruiting 3,000 Haredis after landmark ruling

Senior rabbi asserts: ‘Even someone who doesn’t study not allowed to enlist in the IDF'

Ultra-Orthodox Jews block a road in a protest against the drafting of ultra-Orthodox Jews to the Israeli army, outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, June 2, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Despite early indications that the Israeli High Court’s landmark ruling on the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) men into Israel Defense Forces would not immediately cause a coalition crisis, recent statements by politicians and a letter from Israel’s attorney general to the government have fueled tensions with Haredi leadership and could lead to early elections soon.

In their immediate reactions, Haredi leaders expressed outrage but didn’t threaten to leave the coalition over the court order, as it appeared to give the government leeway to begin recruiting low numbers and didn’t force it to do so immediately.

However, shortly after the ruling, Education Minister and Likud party member Yoav Kisch stated that “there are 64,000 yeshiva students who are exempt for recruitment, 15-16,000 in each recruitment round,” of which he said half would eventually be recruited – a non-starter for the Haredi leadership.

“This year we need to recruit 3,000 ultra-Orthodox, it must happen, and the law must guarantee it… I say in the clearest way, I will not give up significant recruiting for the ultra-Orthodox in favor of what the IDF needs.”

Several hours after the ruling, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara ordered the government to begin drafting 3,000 Haredi men at the start of July, and also ordered it to stop transferring the yeshiva funds immediately.

Making matters worse in the view of Haredi leadership, veteran Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein, who heads the committee currently discussing a new IDF draft law, conditioned his support for the bill on “broad agreement,” a phrase used by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a similar statement.

The Haredi parties reportedly hope to establish low enlistment targets and a slow increase in the law to soften the blow from the High Court’s order.

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Edelstein late Tuesday night to seek clarifications on his statement, which implied that he, like Gallant, would seek the approval of at least part of the opposition parties to support the draft law.

The chasm between the positions of the Haredim and the opposition on this issue makes the law’s passage highly unlikely, which incentivizes the Haredi parties to leave the government rather than have it pass a bad law.

After the conversation with Netanyahu, several coalition Knesset members attempted to downplay Edelstein’s statement, however, in the eyes of Haredi leadership, the damage was already done.

“This was a significant breaking point,” an ultra-Orthodox source told Ynet News, accusing Netanyahu of losing control of his coalition, similar to what happened around the issue of the “Rabbis Law” last week.

Ultra-Orthodox officials also sent messages to Netanyahu, threatening consequences if he failed to “straighten out” Edelstein.

Against this background, the already-heated atmosphere was further inflamed when one of the Shas party’s spiritual leaders, Rabbi Moshe Maya, made inflammatory statements in a radio interview.

Speaking on the program, Radio BaRamah, Maya said, “Even someone who doesn’t study in a yeshiva is not allowed to enlist in the IDF.”

“Whoever goes to the army today will come out as someone who desecrates the Sabbath,” said the head of Shas’ Torah Sages Council, which decides on the party’s policy.

“Enlisting in the army is a religious violation. We have a clear law that tells us that a yeshiva member is not allowed to enlist in the army. If they enter the yeshiva halls to recruit us - we will oppose it. It’s like being forced into desecrating the Sabbath.”

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

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