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High Court Draft Ruling Animates Netanyahu's Opponents at Critical Time in War

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Out of the blue late on Tuesday morning, the news came across the cellphone: Israel's High Court had ruled unanimously that Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish Yeshiva students could no longer be exempt from the military draft. Presumably, the drafting of the Haredim could begin almost immediately.

Within a few hours, the narrative among big media and Israeli opposition leaders had been set. It wasn't about the new prospective Haredi soldiers, or whether the ultra-Orthodox rabbis and students would take to the streets in protest.

No, the narrative was well described in the second phrase of the lead sentence in an Associated Press article: "... a decision that could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition as Israel continues to wage war in Gaza."

For Netanyahu's many opponents, both inside and outside Israel, the timing couldn't be more exciting, with the nation wearied by the prolonged operation in Gaza and threatened by a much greater force, Hezbollah in Lebanon.


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The exemption for the Haredi students rankles strongly among secular and even some Religious Zionist Israelis who resent the Haredim for refusing to serve while the rest of the nation pays taxes for their welfare.

At the same time, their non-Orthodox sons and daughters are serving and some are dying in Gaza and the north, and the military personnel on several fronts are feeling the strain of the multi-pronged attacks from Iranian proxies. 

Still, it's the prospective fall of the Netanyahu government that animates a significant minority in Israel above every other issue. That minority is encouraged daily by leaders from a host of European nations, the U.N., the international courts at The Hague, the White House and its spokespersons, and members of the journalistic corps, a great many of whom have publicly called on the prime minister to resign.

The campaign against Netanyahu began decades ago, shortly after he became prime minister for the first time in 1996. The animosity against him has only grown since then, to the point that in 2024, top U.S. leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and even President Joe Biden himself openly declared it was time for him to go.

Despite the determined global opposition, the Netanyahu coalition – with more than 30 members of his Likud Party joined by an almost equal number of religious party members – still has a solid 64-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset. Given a united front after the resignation of National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, they could continue to prosecute the war, as they were preparing to do during this critical pivot in the central battlefront location from Gaza to the Lebanon border.

Enter the Supreme Court. Their military draft decision and the timing of it, whether intended or not, is the greatest threat to the coalition to date. The religious party members have indicated they would leave the government if Netanyahu pushed through a new draft law, but they would remain if the decision came from the court.

Now that they know the answer, the challenge will be to hold Likud and religious party members together to take on the greatest extended existential threat to the Jewish State since 1948.

If they succeed in staying together, they can see Israel through to victory. If not, the coalition would disband, making it a caretaker government with reduced power during wartime. They might be forced to heed U.S.-mandated ceasefires for up to a third of a year while the country debates its future direction in an atmosphere of acrimony and retribution, and the mortal enemies poised on and within Israel's borders plan their next move.

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About The Author


John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN New since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.