Cracks emerge as leading Israeli MKs threaten to quit Gaza war emergency government

Cracks emerge as leading Israeli MKs threaten to quit Gaza war emergency government
Israel's war in Gaza has seen cracks emerge in the Israeli government over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's strategy.
3 min read
25 March, 2024
Benny Gantz has been strongly opposed the exemption of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis [Getty]

Leading Israeli officials are threatening to quit the war cabinet over disagreements about the issue of compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis amid the war on Gaza, media have reported.

Israel war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said his National Unity Party would no longer remain in the emergency government if legislation is passed exempting ultra-Orthodox Jewish people from conscription in the Israeli military.

He said the bill is "a red line during normal times, and a black flag during wartime" and that the party is working to block the draft legislation.

Chili Tropper of the National Unity alliance also slammed Netanyahu's apparent bid to appease his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, mockingly saying it appeared to have been written on 6 October - a day after Hamas's 7 October attacks and the start of Israel's brutal war on Gaza.

"Hundreds of soldiers have been killed and thousands wounded in addition to the various fronts [on which Israel is fighting], we need many more soldiers immediately," he wrote on Facebook, according to Haaretz.

Orthodox Jewish Israelis have traditionally been exempted from conscription due to many being, technically, involved in full-time religious study, despite the law stating that all Israelis aged over 18 must serve in the military, although some exemptions are made.

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Israeli governments have delayed enacted legislation on the issue with the state ignoring a deadline set by the Supreme Court for 25 March to resolve the issue.

Religious Jewish avoidance of military service is strongly opposed by most secular Israelis, including from the right, particularly as 360,000 reservists were called up for duty since 7 October, including many dual nationals flying in from abroad.

Despite there being little to no opposition in the Israeli political establishment to the brutal war on Gaza, which has killed at least 32,333 Palestinians, there is anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's draft conscription bill which would see the ultra-Orthodox continue to avoid military service.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who has clashed with far-right members of Netanyahu's coalition government, said he would also oppose the draft legislation.

"At the meetings we've held in the past few weeks, the parties refused to be flexible and dug into their political positions," Gallant said.

"I cannot therefore stand behind the bill that is being drawn up, and I will not support it."

Gallant, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, has been keen to see consensus on the issue between different Israeli factions, but has joined the chorus of opposition to further ultra-Orthodox exemptions.

Netanyahu, who faces charges of corruption, is highly reliant on parties with strong Religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox support for his coalition government, giving far-right radicals - such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich - top ministerial positions despite their lack of political experience.

Meanwhile, a deadline set by Gideon Sa'ar of the New Hope party to join the Israeli war cabinet has passed, meaning it is likely he will quit the Likud-led unity government coalition.