The privileges granted to the ultra-Orthodox have enraged the secular and modern Orthodox majority of Israelis. Last year, Netanyahu was forced to abandon his plans to extend the draft exemptions under intense public pressure, though he so far has produced no ultra-Orthodox recruitment program.
The ultra-Orthodox camp is not monolithic: Shas is more flexible than other ultra-Orthodox parties on the draft. Other ultra-Orthodox lawmakers demand that the status quo remain and say they will not join a government that applies the draft universally.
If polls are wrong and Netanyahu’s list wins more seats than is currently expected, ‘‘he will be freer to act,’’ said Menachem Friedman, an expert on the ultra-Orthodox. With a poorer performance, ‘‘he will have a tougher time’’ because potential partners will be able to drive a harder bargain, he said.