‘Red line’: Gantz to quit government if draft bill exempting ultra-orthodox passes

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‘Red line’: Gantz to quit government if draft bill exempting ultra-orthodox passes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has prepared an outline for a new draft bill which has been harshly criticised by both Gantz's party and the opposition.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

National Unity Party leader and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz vowed to quit the emergency government if a highly controversial draft bill exempting ultra-orthodox passes in Knesset. 

In February, the Supreme Court ordered the government to explain why ultra-orthodox still aren’t drafted to the army, with a deadline set for this coming Friday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has prepared an outline for a new draft bill which has been harshly criticised by both Gantz’s party and the opposition.

Gantz called the draft bill “a red line during normal times, and a black flag during wartime.”

“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 said.

“We will not be able to look our fighters, both within and outside our borders, who are asked to extend their service, in the eye. We will not be able to look directly at the reservists who are leaving behind their families and businesses,” he added.

Defence Minister and Likud party member Yoav Gallant also criticised the draft bill, saying: “At the meetings we’ve held in the past few weeks, the parties refused to be flexible and dug into their political positions. I cannot therefore stand behind the bill that is being drawn up, and I will not support it.”

The “status-quo” agreement in Israel has exempted ultra-orthodox boys and girls from the army for decades, whereas secular and less religious Israeli Jewish girls and boys have to serve roughly two and three years in the IDF respectively.

In 2017, after years of debate over the arrangement, the Supreme Court finally ruled that the exemption of ultra-orthodox from the army was   unconstitutional.

The issue has since not been resolved, as Israel was thrown into several elections in a row, a pandemic, and two wars in Gaza.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid called on Gantz and fellow war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot to quit the government if the draft law passes this week.

“The government is playing with Israel’s security. It’s not just an ideological discussion anymore. It’s a security disaster. There are not enough soldiers, the army is stretched to the limit. There are more soldiers in the West Bank than in Gaza at the moment, the actual war is not going on right now,” Lapid told KAN Public Broadcaster.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu told his cabinet that the draft bill needs to pass if the government is to survive, according to a KAN public broadcaster report.

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