Israel’s far-right Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf warned this Tuesday that if the young people of his community are not exempt from compulsory military service, he would resign from his job.
While the government in Israel is under huge criticism for pursuing discriminatory policies regarding Palestinians, the challenge is now finding its way inside the Knesset and opposition voices from Netanyahu’s ministers are getting louder and louder.
This Tuesday, Israel’s Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, who is also the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, issued a warning statement, threatening the Knesset that he would resign from his job if the coalition does not bring to discussion a draft facilitating exemption of military service for his Haredi community.
“The moment the draft law doesn’t pass, I resign. I won’t even have to wait a minute. There is nothing to discuss. I am obedient to the instructions of the Council of Torah Sages,” Goldknopf told the religious HaMechadesh news site this Tuesday.
“We aren’t asking for anything except for the draft law. The [judicial] reform, the reasonableness [law], everyone came and asked for something. I’m not asking for anything [else],” he also noted. Deciding upon whether to discuss the proposed draft and put it into vote in the Knesset will happen in the coming November, which means the Knesset has less than a month to hear Goldknopf out.
Goldknopf’s threat come as military service is compulsory for all Jewish Israelis. Although currently most Haredim do not have to serve in the military service, but the issue has long remained unregulated by clear laws amid a High Court of Justice demand to do so.
Rebuking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the matter, Goldknopf also said that Netanyahu has already requested that the bill’s passage be postponed for a third time since the coalition was sworn in.
“There was a first delay, a second delay, there won’t be a third. Members of Likud today are playing games and saying yes or no and have issues. They will have to take stock. In the moment of truth — what is good for you? Is it better for you to overthrow the government or is it better to support some yeshiva members who can sit and study?” Goldknopf said.
Exempting only part of Israeli society from military service, a contradiction to democracy
In 1949, the Knesset passed the Defense Service Law, which established military conscription and required that all Israeli citizens be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces or participate in national service from age 18. While additional legislation in subsequent decades modified the length of mandatory service and other procedural aspects of the draft, the system itself has otherwise remained largely unchanged.
However, Israeli men from the Haredi religious community are exempted from mandatory conscription, a non-written, illegal practice which has its roots in the birth of the State of Israel. In other words, the exemption for Israel’s largest ethnic minority is not explicitly established through law, but rather is implemented through army directives. These directives have not applied to the Druze and Circassian communities, who do typically serve alongside their Jewish counterparts.
Even the IDF has indicated its opposition to plans discussed by the government on legalizing the exemption of the Herdi men from military service, stating that universal conscription by drafting Israelis from all parts of society is of utmost importance.
Regardless of the undemocratic nature of the move, however, Goldknopf insists that all Herdi men should be allowed to skip military service. A week before, he made a similar warning to Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs in a handwritten note, urging Fuchs to keep to his commitment that the bill would be brought up for a reading at the start of the winter session. However, coalition members have warned constantly in recent days that they will not support a blanket exemption for anyone.