Drafting the Ultra-Orthodox: The Debate Returns

As Benjamin Netanyahu works to form a governing coalition, he is expected to try to bring both Yisrael Beytenu—which strongly objects to the exemption from military service given to most Ḥaredim—and the two ḥaredi parties into his government. The negotiations, writes David M. Weinberg, will no doubt revive the controversy regarding this exemption. Over the past twenty years, many compromise proposals have been considered, and meanwhile ḥaredi enlistment has gradually increased, but no piece of legislation has managed to survive both the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Weinberg proposes a solution of his own:

Almost every yeshiva and kollel [institution of post-graduate talmudic study] in Israel operates on the same academic calendar. . . . The total vacation accrued, for all junior and senior kollel men, yeshiva boys, and yeshiva educators of all ranks and stripes [is] ten to eleven weeks annually. Ultra-Orthodox society calls this beyn ha-zmanim (between semesters).

At these times, you’ll find ḥaredi youth and ḥaredi families traveling the country, visiting its parks, shopping in its malls, swimming in its pools, and even occasionally traveling abroad. Doing normal vacation stuff. . . .

I say that the well-endowed-with-vacation Ḥaredim have an obligation to forgo at least some of their time “outside the tents of Torah” to share in the national burden. . . . It could work like this: for, say, five out of their ten weeks of vacation each year, ultra-Orthodox men would be drafted into specially-designed units that meet rigorous standards of kashrut and modesty—ranging from the all-ḥaredi Naḥal units to the national emergency medical service Magen David Adom, and from the army rabbinate to rescue services. . . .

Some Ḥaredim might have to miss out on the luxury of having a Passover seder at home or may find themselves spending Yom Kippur in an army hospital pushing wheelchairs, but that’s a small price to pay for national responsibility and unity. . . . Ḥaredim have the time and the ability to serve their country without egregiously cutting back on Torah study and without abandoning their unique way of life—if they truly care to share in the national-security burden.

This proposal upholds the belief that . . . Torah study should be allowed to flourish without restriction in the state of Israel, and simultaneously the belief that it is morally unacceptable that an entire class of Israeli citizens automatically be released from the burden of militarily defending the country.

Read more at David M. Weinberg

More about: Haredim, IDF, Israeli politics

 

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas