Ultra-Orthodox rabbi meets with opposition over conscription law, Netanyahu outraged

Benny Gantz told by leading rabbi that “we won’t budge” on legislation that essentially exempts ultra-Orthodox young men from IDF service.

By World Israel News Staff

A prominent rabbi who serves as the spiritual leader of a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political faction in the current ruling coalition met with a politician from the Opposition on Sunday, signaling a possible deepening of tensions regarding the contentious conscription law.

National Unity party head Benny Gantz met with Rabbi Zvi Bergman, leader of Degel HaTorah’s Council of Torah Elders, in Bnei Brak, where they discussed the Haredi party’s demand for legislation essentially exempting young men from military service in favor of study in yeshivas.

“Learning Torah is of enormous importance and has served to preserve Judaism over thousands of years,” Gantz said, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

“At the same time, we must continue to fight to preserve Israel’s security and unity,” he added.

Bergman reportedly told Gantz that his party was not prepared to compromise regarding the legislation.

“We won’t budge,” the rabbi said. Notably, he added that the judicial reform “does not concern us,” suggesting that the party was willing to give up on changes to the legal system in favor of the conscription law.

Channel 14 News reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was outraged by the meeting, which served as a power play for the Haredi parties to demonstrate that they would be willing to work with the Opposition.

As a condition for joining the current government, the Haredi United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas parties demanded the passage of a law that would grant de facto exemptions from army service for young men from their communities, who will instead study in yeshivas.

Although Netanyahu originally pledged to pass the law in the Knesset’s spring session, the legislation has been repeatedly delayed.

Numerous Likud MKs are opposed to the law, with some even speaking out against blanket exemptions from military service for the community, and the legislation is unpopular among the party’s voters.

The Haredi parties, particularly the Degel HaTorah faction within UTJ, have hinted that they are willing to topple the government should the law not come to fruition in the near future.