Despite Election Spotlight, Netanyahu May Resist Change in Haredi Draft Exemption

Premier Still Needs Support of Ultra-Orthodox Parties

Status Quo: Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure to end the exemption that ultra-Orthodox men enjoy from serving in the Israel military. But he’s also seeking the support of Haredi parties, meaning little may change.
getty images
Status Quo: Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure to end the exemption that ultra-Orthodox men enjoy from serving in the Israel military. But he’s also seeking the support of Haredi parties, meaning little may change.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published February 26, 2013, issue of March 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Israel’s recent election was dominated by discusion of how to integrate ultra-Orthodox young men into the military. But Israelis are now facing up to the possibility that in practical terms, nothing will change on this front during the new Knesset session.

In the months leading up to the election, as calls grew for an end to Haredi men’s exemption from national service, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that his plan will not be “an empty move,” made for publicity’s sake. But when his latest proposal became public in mid-February, a chorus of critics said it was exactly that.

There was a moment, last spring, when it looked as if a gradual Haredi draft was imminent. The ruling Likud had brought Kadima, then the largest Knesset party, into the coalition, and Netanyahu convened a committee to formulate a strategy. Kadima lawmaker Yohanan Plesner chaired the committee, and Likud had the political clout to pass his recommendations.

But Likud-Kadima tensions presented obstacles, Netanyahu disbanded the committee, and Kadima left the government and then found itself reduced to a two-seat faction after the recent elections. Plesner, the man who had looked poised to usher in the Haredi draft, no longer had his committee or even his Knesset seat.

Speaking to the Forward on February 19, Plesner said that the new plan is “the Tal Law exactly,” referring to the legislation that previously exempted Haredi youth from the military until it expired this past summer. The only real difference, he claimed, is the “smokescreens that are trying to disguise the fact that it’s a repetition of the argument behind the Tal Law.”

Many voters snubbed Netanyahu and put their hopes for a Haredi draft in Yesh Atid, the new centrist party that catapulted itself into the Knesset, as the second-largest faction, largely because of its campaigning on this issue. But contrary to most voters’ desire for immediate action, Yesh Atid’s platform offers Haredim a five-year grace period before any draft takes effect.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.