In a historic move, the Knesset passed a bill ending draft exemptions for Haredi Jews on Wednesday.
The vote stood at an overwhelming 67-1, although this was mainly the result of the opposition's decision to boycott the vote. The bill nonetheless enjoyed a majority, and the boycott was not due to the issue at hand, but to the recent passage of an electoral reform that raised the threshold for entrance to the Knesset.
Government minister Yaakov Peri hailed the bill, saying, "For the first time, an issue at the heart of the conflict of Israeli society, will be solved. Dramatic change will come."
Naftali Bennett, leader of the national-religious Jewish Home party, echoed these sentiments, calling on Israelis to "roll up our sleeves and connect our haredi brothers to the economy and Israeli service. The time has come for unity."
The Haredi parties, however, lamented the passage of the bill, with MK Moshe Gafni declaring "The State of Israel has lost the right to be called a Jewish and democratic state today. The haredi public will not forgot and will not forgive Netanyahu and his partners for what they caused." He called the vote "a black day for the state."
The Haredi draft exemption has stood since Israel's inception; the result of a deal cut between then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the Haredi leadership.
In recent decades, however, the exemption has become extremely controversial due to the massive rise in the Haredi population and the widespread belief among secular and traditional Jews that they are being forced to shoulder an unfair amount of the burden of military service.