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The question of ultra-Orthodox recruitment, and the political challenges

Since the outbreak of the war, and even more so since the passage of the law extending the regular service and the period of reserve duty, the question of recruiting the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) has been raised on the social and political agenda. If to this day the “equality of the burden” discourse was directed to lead to the removal of part of the “burden” from non-Haredi society, today it is an attempt to block an addition of a “burden” that has returned with the security challenges. According to surveys conducted in the Israeli public, support for haredi recruitment has increased by 7% since the outbreak of the war, and now stands at 75%. In the Haredi society itself, too, there is a significant increase in support for the regulation of recruitment, with the percentage of support among Shas voters climbing to 40%, and among ‘yehadut hatorah’ voters to 33%, a double increase in both populations.

This social change fits with the legal timing, with the Supreme Court demanding that the government enact a new draft law that regulates the status of yeshiva students (after almost a decade of waiting). Before the war, the government considered passing a ‘Base law: The study of Torah’, but it seems impossible today, due to the public atmosphere. Earlier this week, Defense Minister Galant drew a red line that could lead to political upheaval, declaring that he would only advance a draft plan acceptable to all government parties. In this way, he hinted to the Haredi parties that they should straighten out and compromise in a way that would be agreed upon by Gantz and Eisenkot, otherwise it might lead to the dissolution of the government – since within two weeks it must submit a new outline to the High Court of Justice, lest the budgets for the Yeshivot be stopped.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the issue at a special press conference. He warned against going to elections and polarization at this time, and at the same time recognized the need to recruit the ultra-Orthodox, and promised: “We will set goals to recruit Haredim. I am sure that this arrangement can be achieved by a majority in the Knesset.” At the same time, in the past two days there have been positive contacts between Galant, Gantz and Eisenkot and representatives of the Haredi parties; Some of them even expressed a principled agreement to Gantz and Eisenkot’s draft plan, which includes a significant increase in the quota of recruits from among yeshiva students, both for the army and for civil service – MDA, ZAKA, etc. Time is short and the work is numerous, but Israeli society in general and ultra-Orthodox in particular may be facing a historic change.

To respond – rxpuyhi@gmail.com

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