Israeli opposition leader says Netanyahu is undermining national security

Yair Lapid also criticizes premier for betraying Israeli soldiers with evasion and refusal law

08:42 - 18/06/2024 الثلاثاء
File photo
File photo

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday of undermining national security and betraying the country's soldiers amid the army's onslaught in the Gaza Strip.

Lapid's remarks came ahead of a meeting of a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense Tuesday to discuss a draft law which lowers the age of exemption from mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students that is set to be voted on in its second and third readings before becoming law.

The meeting coincides with protests organized by “Brothers in Arms,” a group of former soldiers demanding mandatory conscription for all Israelis. The protesters are calling for the government's ouster and early elections.

Last Monday, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed the first reading of the draft law in a 63-57 vote.

“Tomorrow, the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee will begin discussions on the evasion and refusal law. This is a betrayal of the fighters, a betrayal of the reservists, a betrayal of the Israeli middle class, and a betrayal of the IDF (army),” Lapid wrote on X.

“The Israeli government undermines the security of the state. Netanyahu sells our fighters. Him and his smile,” he added.

Currently, Haredim can avoid military service upon reaching 18, the age of mandatory conscription, by obtaining annual deferments for religious studies until they reach the exemption age of 26.

The proposed law would lower the exemption age to 21.

Since 2017, successive governments have failed to reach a consensus on Haredi conscription after the Supreme Court invalidated a 2015 law exempting them from military service, citing it as violating the “principle of equality.”

While religious parties oppose the conscription of Haredi, secular and nationalist parties support it and demand that religious students share the “burden of war,” posing a significant challenge to Netanyahu's coalition.

Haredi Jews, who make up about 13% of Israel's population of approximately 9.7 million, do not serve in the military, citing a commitment to studying the Torah, Judaism's holy book.

Israel has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by the Palestinian group Hamas.

More than 37,300 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and over 85,000 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Over eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered it to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

#Benjamin Netanyahu
#draft law
#Haredi yeshiva students
#Yair Lapid
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