To Serve or Not to Serve – the IDF, Haredim one Enlisted Now Do not Want to Be Associated With Enlistment…

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A photo of Rabbi Elisha Levi, an ultra-Orthodox who fought in the Six Day War, is shown in a Yisrael Beytenu campaign ad calling on ultra-Orthodox to enlist. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Liberman pulls clip calling for Haredi enlistment but featuring Six Day War vet

Granddaughter of Rabbi Elisha Levi outraged to see a photo of him illustrating Yisrael Beytenu campaign spot; ultra-Orthodox MK blasts ‘incitement’

Avigdor Liberman was forced Friday to remove a campaign ad by his Yisrael Beytenu party calling on ultra-Orthodox Israelis to enlist to the military, after coming under fire for including footage of a rabbi who had fought in the Six Day War in 1967.

Yisrael Beytenu has been focusing its campaign on criticizing the ultra-Orthodox community and presenting his party as right-wing and secular, after a disagreement over a law regulating the drafting of seminary students into the IDF prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a coalition in the wake of the April elections. This led to another round of Israeli elections scheduled for September 17.

In the campaign spot published Friday morning, various photos of ultra-Orthodox men are seen with slogans such as: “We’re not demanding that you enlist to [elite commando unit] Sayeret Matkal, only that you enlist,” and “We’re not demanding that you work extra hours, only that you work.”

However, Facebook user Michaela Levi was outraged when she recognized one of the people in the clip as her grandfather Rabbi Elisha Levi, who served in the IDF in the 1960s and took part in the Six Day War against invading Arab armies.

“How ugly can this election cycle be?” she asked in a post. “This morning I saw the video Avigdor Liberman published. Probably without thinking too much about the people behind the photos, he allowed himself to drag my grandfather’s name through the mud… How do you allow yourselves to generalize like this?!

“My grandfather, who served and fought in the Six Day War, worked all his life in education and dedicated every free moment he had to volunteer work, and thousands of graduates of kindergartens and schools around Jerusalem can testify to that,” Levi added.

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The Ultra-Orthodox Free-Loaders in Israel Posing Existential Threat to Israel and to Jews

Israel’s Draft Dodging Haredi, the Legal Impetus, the Moral Imperative and Israel’s Financial Future

The IDF and its need for troops aren’t the real issue in the Haredi draft battle

Israel may be heading to snap elections over the enlistment of a few hundred more ultra-Orthodox recruits, which would do little to address the army’s manpower woes

 

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest in Jerusalem against the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox young man for draft-dodging on March 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest in Jerusalem against the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox young man for draft-dodging on March 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

That Israel may be heading toward a second general election within months — if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form a majority coalition — actually has relatively little to do with the military or its very real manpower concerns, even though this failure stems from irreconcilable differences between the secular Yisrael Beytenu party and the ultra-Orthodox factions over the conscription of yeshiva students.

Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman is demanding an increase in the level of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces, with the threat of economic sanctions on ultra-Orthodox institutions if they do not meet these goals. The Haredi parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, are demanding precisely the opposite: more exemptions for their communities’ yeshiva students. And Netanyahu needs both Liberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties for a majority coalition.

The IDF is indeed grappling with the potential threat of significant troop shortages following a 2015 amendment to the country’s draft law that cut the mandatory service for men from three years to two years and eight months, and plans to further reduce males’ service to 30 months beginning in 2020.

Yet while ostensibly stemming from the manpower needs of the military, the direct impetus for this partisan fight between Yisrael Beytenu and the Haredi parties comes not from IDF requests, but from legal necessity.

n 2012, the High Court of Justice struck down the 2002 “Tal Law,” which had dictated ultra-Orthodox enlistment levels but was found to do so unfairly and thus illegally. A more demanding replacement law was proposed in 2013 by the Yesh Atid party, but it was soon amended and moderated once the Haredi parties were brought back into the government. In 2017, the High Court struck down that law as well, declaring it similarly unjust.

Even during the years when this weakened 2013 replacement law was in effect, the IDF never reached the prescribed Haredi enlistment numbers, sometimes falling short by hundreds of recruits.

While Netanyahu now needs to find another formulation, one that simultaneously satisfies the demands of Liberman, the ultra-Orthodox parties, and the High Court of Justice, ensuring the IDF has its manpower requirements met is not one of these demands. And nor would even the most dramatic of proposals that are seriously being considered come close to meeting the IDF’s needs.

Liberman’s plan, while seen as entirely too extreme by the Haredi factions, would see only a comparatively modest increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. The proposal put forward by Liberman’s Defense Ministry last year would initially require 3,348 ultra-Orthodox men to enlist in the IDF each year and another 648 take part in some kind of national service, a small increase on the current quotas. These numbers would increase, first by eight percent each year for three years, then 6.5 percent for another three years and finally by five percent for four more years, reaching 5,737 ultra-Orthodox military recruits and 1,107 national servicemen after a decade.

If the draft falls short of 95% of these targets, sanctions in the form of cuts to state funds allocated to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas would be put in place. The fines would increase each year the targets are missed.

On Monday, Liberman confirmed that this was a symbolic battle over the nature of the country, not one about the IDF’s readiness for war.

“It’s not just the draft law. The draft law became a symbol. And we certainly won’t give up on our symbols… but look at what is happening here,” he said, referring to demands by the Haredi parties in recent months to halt all government work on Saturday.

“I want to emphasize another time: We are in favor of a Jewish state, we are against a halachic state,” Liberman added, using the Hebrew term for Jewish law.

Since the 2015 cutback, the military has adopted a host of new measures and programs to make up for its manpower losses, and the prospect of the additional reduction in 2020 is still being protested by the IDF in the halls of the Kirya — the Defense Ministry and military headquarters — and the Knesset.

The enlistment of these few hundred more Haredi recruits each year is not likely to have a significant effect on the military’s manpower shortages, nor is it trumpeted by IDF officials as a potential game-changer on this front, especially as ultra-Orthodox servicemen require on average more investment per soldier by the IDF due to their community’s relatively low socioeconomic position.

There are, of course, other reasons for encouraging greater Haredi enlistment in the military beyond simple manpower numbers.

Israel remains one of the few countries around the world with near universal conscription, and the IDF is described as a “people’s army,” one that is supposed to reflect the diverse nature of Israeli society.

This is a “supreme value that will continue to serve as the basis for the IDF’s activities and to direct it,” the Defense Ministry wrote in its recommendations last year.

The military can also serve as an important economic and social springboard, offering people skills, qualifications and experiences that would be otherwise difficult or expensive to obtain — especially for a comparatively poor and economically underperforming community like Israel’s ultra-Orthodox.

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Israel Headed Toward Political Meltdown as Shasniks Refuse to Submit to Mandatory IDF Service Like all Israelis

The New York Times

With 2 Days Left, Israel’s Netanyahu Struggles to Form a Government

 

JERUSALEM — With just two days left before the deadline for forming a government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was struggling Monday to sign up coalition partners, thrusting the country into a political crisis and raising the possibility that it could be forced to hold a new election.

The drama stemmed from a battle of wills between two political forces that Mr. Netanyahu needs to form a right-wing coalition: the ultra-Orthodox religious parties that won 16 parliamentary seats in the April 9 election, and Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won five seats and whose constituents are mostly secular, Russian-speaking Israelis.

Having long sparred over issues of religion and state, the sides are now wrestling over legislation to replace a military draft law that exempted ultra-Orthodox men. Mr. Lieberman supports a law that sets modest quotas for enlisting them, which the religious parties oppose.

A new law must be passed by late July, according to a deadline imposed by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, which won 35 seats, needs the ultra-Orthodox parties, Yisrael Beiteinu and two other parties to assemble a 61-seat majority.

Analysts said it was entirely possible that the parties could resolve their differences, allowing Mr. Netanyahu to announce a new government by midnight Wednesday, which would not be the first time Israeli coalition negotiations have gone to the wire.

But the alternative threatened to catapult Israel into uncharted political terrain: Israel has never had to hold a new national ballot because of a failure to form a government after an election.

“Right now it looks as if we are at a deadlock because everybody has climbed to the top of a tree and nobody’s ready to get down, especially not Lieberman,” said Abraham Diskin, professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Putting the chances of a new election at 50-50, he added, “Definitely there is a possibility that we will have early elections even before the government was formed.”

On Sunday, Likud submitted a motion to disperse the newly sworn-in Parliament, paving the way for new elections. While questions arose over the legality of an interim government taking such action, the move seemed like a canny negotiating tactic in a game of political chicken.

By Monday, one newspaper, Maariv, had already published a poll asking, “If elections were held today, who would you vote for?”

On Monday evening, the motion passed a preliminary vote in Parliament; possible dates were being bandied about for a new election in about three months.

Even as his party moved toward a new election, Mr. Netanyahu insisted he didn’t want one.

“It is still possible to come to our senses,” he said in a televised address Monday evening. “I promise that I will continue to work in every possible way during the time that is still left in order to form the government. I call upon Avigdor Lieberman to reconsider.”

Mr. Netanyahu also quoted a tweet posted on Monday by President Trump endorsing Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts, which many critics described as an improper intervention in Israel’s domestic politics. Mr. Trump, calling Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi, wrote: “Hoping things will work out with Israel’s coalition formation and Bibi and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever.”

Calling a new election would pre-empt another possibility, distasteful to Mr. Netanyahu, that Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, could offer someone else the chance to form a government.

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Avigdor Lieberman, the former defense minister, said he was not prepared to be part of a government controlled by religious law.CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

The opposition is led by Blue and White, a new centrist party whose main appeal was that it was not led by Mr. Netanyahu, who has already served 13 years as prime minister and is facing indictment on corruption charges.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is on track to become Israel’s longest serving prime minister this summer, is also the first to face possible criminal charges while in office. In February, the attorney general announced plans to indict him in three cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The attorney general has set a hearing for October where Mr. Netanyahu’s lawyers can plead his case before a final decision is made.

The Likud nevertheless won five more seats than last time, which Mr. Netanyahu took as a vote of confidence, and together with the right-wing and religious parties that made up his last coalition, seemed poised to form a government with a majority of 65 seats.

He also appeared set to take on another challenge — promoting legislation that would guarantee him immunity from prosecution while in office. Tens of thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday night in a protest against such a move.

Instead, Mr. Netanyahu has found himself at the mercy of smaller parties engaged in a power struggle over the military draft law, which critics said was in any case a mild compromise unlikely to significantly change the status quo.

There is a long history of bad blood between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Lieberman, a blunt, tough-talking politician who resigned as defense minister in Mr. Netanyahu’s last government and was eyeing returning to the post.

Some commentators suggested that Mr. Lieberman was driven by a desire for revenge against his old nemesis, or was counting on the prospect that Mr. Netanyahu could not survive an indictment and was setting himself up as an alternative.

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If They are Not Going to Follow the Laws of the Country, they Should be Prosecuted to Tossed Out

An ultra-Orthodox demonstration against the arrest of an IDF draft-dodger in Jerusalem on March 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Ultra-Orthodox anti-draft protesters block Jerusalem roads; 30 arrested

Demonstrators gather at major intersection to rally against draft-dodger’s arrest; footage shows IDF soldier aiming rifle at protesters who called him a ‘Nazi’

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators blocked traffic and disrupted the light rail service for several hours Thursday in protest of the arrest of an army draft-dodger from a religious seminary in Jerusalem.

Protesters sat in the street and on the rail tracks at a junction of Jaffa Road, near the main traffic entrance to the city, chanting “We will die and not be drafted.”

Some of the protesters reportedly called police “Nazis.”

Police said 30 people were arrested during the demonstration at the intersection of the Jaffa and Sarei Yisrael streets, near the capital’s Central Bus Station.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest in Jerusalem against the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox for draft-dodging on March 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

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