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Likud Lawmaker Blocks Govt Bill to Up Age Limit for IDF Reserve Service

(JNS) Likud Party legislator Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on Wednesday, June 26 refused to advance a government-backed proposal to raise the retirement age for military reservists, citing the failure to reach a “broad consensus” on the issue.

Edelstein’s decision to block the legislation came a day after Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government must draft haredi men into the army, and as lawmakers debate a bill expanding exemptions for the haredi community, while creating small quotas for service.

The draft Security Service Law extends a temporary order raising the exemption age for reserve service from 40 to 41 for regular soldiers and from 45 to 46 for officers amid the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

Specialists—such as doctors, heavy equipment drivers, and mechanics—would be required to continue their reserve duty until age 50, up from 49.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant previously warned that if the law fails to pass this week, thousands of reservists would be sent home.

According to the legislation’s explanatory note, it is a “temporary order” stemming from the “immediate need, the scope of the tasks and the lack of possibility to meet this operational need by other means—since the removal of those reservists from the order of the military forces during the fighting may cause damage to the competence and continuity of the units’ functioning, in particular in relation to the combat units.”

Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker, told fellow committee members on Wednesday, “There will be no situation in which the extension of this law will pass on the bayonets of the coalition.

“Either we all reject the IDF’s request [to raise the retirement age] or we all agree on something. I have no personal, factional, party or coalition interest in passing it.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the committee chairman threatened to take a similar stance on the haredi enlistment bill, urging coalition and opposition to come together, “or the law won’t pass at all.”

Edelstein stuck to his position even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded clarification during a phone call and a subsequent meeting on Wednesday.

Ynet cited sources surrounding the prime minister as accusing the fellow Likud Party member of trying to topple the right-wing coalition, while Edelstein’s advisers blasted Netanyahu’s public criticism of the senior lawmaker as a gift to the opposition.

Likud officials who also oppose the bill extending reservists’ retirement age previously told JNS that the legislation is being driven by need, saying that the government and the army really have no choice.

“We need fighters now, and even if we drafted the haredim, it would take at least eight months [for them to] be combat ready,” the sources said earlier this month. “There’s just no way around it.”

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