How does the Haredim recruitment crisis threaten the Netanyahu government? – The Arab Wall
How does the Haredim recruitment crisis threaten the Netanyahu government?

How does the Haredim recruitment crisis threaten the Netanyahu government?

Amidst growing calls for the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox Jews, remarks made by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, wherein he warned of a potential exodus of the ultra-Orthodox community from Israel if compelled into mandatory conscription, have reignited discussions surrounding a fresh crisis confronting the Netanyahu administration. This development is noteworthy as it marks the inaugural instance in Israeli history where both the opposition and the government align on the imperative for universal military service during challenging times, while factions within the ruling coalition exhibit divergent stances, with some in favor and others opposed to such measures.
The Netanyahu government is set to make a decision by the end of March 2024 regarding proposals on the enlistment of the Haredim and the extension of military service duration. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant has threatened to veto any decision pertaining to the continued exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. This threat comes amidst indications that certain political parties supporting the Haredim are considering toppling the Netanyahu government. These developments signal the onset of a new conflict that is poised to impact the ruling coalition and societal stability. Tensions have been further fueled by recent demonstrations by the “Haredi” Jews, beginning on March 9, 2024, in protest and solidarity with statements made by the Chief Rabbi.

The Motivation Behind Enlisting the Haredim
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant’s recent statement, following heightened debates in Israeli society, advocating for the enlistment of Haredim to address the shortage in the Israeli army amidst the conflict in Gaza and tensions in the northern region, signifies an official acknowledgment of the crisis, elevating it from informal deliberations to a formal concern. This stance has generated a deadlock, exacerbating divisions within the governing coalition and jeopardizing its unity. Since the inception of the state of Israel in 1948, successive administrations have maintained the practice of granting exemptions to “Haredi” Jews from mandatory military conscription. Following the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the 2015 legislation that provided for such exemptions, subsequent governments have faced challenges in formulating a new consensus law mandating the enlistment of Haredim. This impasse has resulted in temporary exemptions and deferred cases pending Supreme Court review.
The rise in demands for the enlistment of Haredim by Israeli society and certain factions of the governing coalition, despite awareness of the potential risks associated with this initiative, signifies mounting discord and strain within the present administration. This situation signals a looming crisis that could jeopardize governmental unity. The Netanyahu government’s continuation further contributes to its history of shortcomings and diminishing effectiveness. There is a lack of indication that “Gallant” or opposition members are inclined to offer concessions to Netanyahu this time, given his consistent pursuit of backing from extremist factions. This pattern was evident previously during the judicial amendments crisis, leading to Netanyahu’s dismissal of “Gallant” prior to the onset of conflict.

Pressure on the Netanyahu Government
The gravity of the present crisis is rooted in its correlation with various governing challenges confronting Netanyahu since the onset of 2024, serving as the underlying context propelling it towards escalation.

  1. Coalition members did not agree on the recruitment decision: While Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, the two ministers within the National Alliance faction, expressed approval of Gallant’s remarks regarding the enlistment of Haredim in the military, Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the “Jewish Greatness” party, chose to abstain. Bezalel Smotrich, the head of the Religious Zionism Alliance, refrained from providing a statement on the issue, despite having endorsed this proposition since the onset of the conflict. This stance contrasted with the positions of the Haredi bloc parties, exemplified by the “Sash” Party under Aryeh Adraee’s leadership and the “Torah Judaism” Party led by Moshe Gaffni, who promptly issued threats of withdrawing from the governing coalition.
  2. The Israeli army’s need to fill the deficit in the number of soldiers: The issuance of such statements by “Gallant” disregards the sensitive circumstances currently experienced by Tel Aviv due to the prolonged five-month war with unmet objectives, an uncertain conclusion, and escalating unrest. Domestically, heightened conflicts within the ruling coalition and the pressing necessity to bolster military forces, particularly amidst escalating tensions on the northern border and the potential for a new conflict with Lebanese Hezbollah, suggest Gallant prioritizes security over political considerations, showing little regard for the decision’s impact on the ruling coalition’s unity.
  3. Opposition members’ investment in the crisis to bring down Netanyahu’s coalition: The alignment between Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid and the opposition faction within the unity government led by Gantz and Eisenkot signifies the concurrence with Gallant’s declarations, which were in opposition to Netanyahu’s preferences. This alliance emerged amidst a situation where Netanyahu sought to enact legislation exempting the Haredim from military conscription, a move perceived as an attempt to destabilize his coalition. By endorsing a policy widely supported by the Israeli populace and asserting their intent to exercise veto power over any measures concerning the exemption of Haredim individuals from military duty, as well as threatening to withdraw from the unity government, in tandem with the Haredim parties’ ultimatum to dismantle Netanyahu’s administration by exiting the coalition, underscores their primary objective of dismantling the Netanyahu government through coalition fragmentation.
  4. The decline of support from the Haredim parties’ for Netanyahu’s government: Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef’s recent statements and his implied ultimatum to withdraw himself and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish factions in Tel Aviv underscore a waning support from the Haredim blocs towards Netanyahu. Criticisms have surfaced, alleging a breach of commitments and agreements that guaranteed backing and involvement of the Haredim parties in his administration in return for their ongoing exemption from mandatory military service. This alleged breach comes in the form of a quasi-constitutional legislation mandating parity between Torah study in religious academies and military conscription, ostensibly addressing the issue of equality. Notably, the Haredim Jewish community stands as one of the largest factions, and their departure from any coalition government could precipitate its collapse. Comprising 13.3% of Israeli society, they represent the fastest-growing demographic segment in the population.
    Potential Solutions to the Problem
    The current crisis’s actuality suggests potential outcomes that could either mitigate or worsen the situation based on the Netanyahu government’s ability to address inherent coalition contradictions.
  5. The Haredim Jews are only support units in the army: The Haredim parties could potentially be involved in a recruitment strategy negotiated with both coalition and opposition members. This development aligns with Netanyahu’s efforts to manage the situation and his commitment to addressing the crisis. Netanyahu has proposed the establishment of new non-combat units for Jewish individuals, a move aimed at restructuring the roles of Haredim within the Israeli military to focus on providing religious assistance to combat personnel and handling administrative duties.
  6. The rejection by the Haredim of Netanyahu’s proposal: This situation aligns with the firm opposition declared by the Haredim parties following the remarks made by “Gallant” and their ultimatum to bring down the “Netanyahu” administration should it proceed with the proposed scheme, alongside the provocative comments made by the Chief Rabbi that incited public unrest. The Israeli publication urged the Haredim community to abstain from military service and other secular engagements conflicting with their religious beliefs, encouraging them to engage in public demonstrations instead.
  7. Decline in calls for Haredim conscription: The realization of this scenario is contingent upon the failure of the initial scenario and the actualization of the subsequent scenario. This is evidenced by the hardening stance of the Haredi parties and the escalation of their protest movements, which vehemently oppose any mandates compelling their conscription into the military. Their persistent ultimatum to the ruling coalition to secede may intensify the calls for their enlistment to stabilize the situation. The potential cessation of hostilities in Gaza heightens the probability of this scenario materializing. Even a temporary ceasefire, coupled with the release
  8. Overthrow of the Netanyahu government: The realization of this scenario is contingent upon the failure of the first and third scenarios and the actualization of the second scenario. Netanyahu’s inability to manage the ongoing crisis, coupled with the escalating rigidity of the Haredim parties and their rejection of any potential compromise, could catalyze their implementation of threats to exit the government. This action could lead to the collapse of the ruling coalition. The reluctance to withdraw may necessitate the inclusion of Haredim members by the opposition into the ruling coalition, potentially prompting Galant, Eisenkot, and Gantz to also consider withdrawing from the coalition, ultimately resulting in early elections in Tel Aviv.
    Unparalleled Debacle
    This crisis marks a significant threat since the establishment of the ruling coalition, potentially signaling the onset of a tangible rift between Netanyahu and certain coalition members, particularly those in opposition, albeit unofficially. Israeli Defense Minister Gallant’s remarks have strained the unity of the current government. Even if Netanyahu opts to remove Gallant once again to appoint a more aligned individual to address the situation, the majority of Israeli society supports the conscription law. Consequently, Gallant, through his declarations, has shifted the burden onto Netanyahu, placing him in a precarious position. Netanyahu must now choose between appeasing the religious factions or the coalition members, with either decision resulting in his disadvantage.