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Major win for mainstream Israel against ultra-Orthodox and government

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the state to draft Haredi men and withdraw funding from yeshivas that don’t cooperate.
TJI Wrap
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Man in ultra-Orthodox clothing on ground being dragged by the leg

Israeli police officers disperse ultra-Orthodox men and boys blocking a road during a protest against Haredi military enlistment in Jerusalem in February (Leo Correa/AP/Haaretz).

Published: 27 June 2024

Last updated: 27 June 2024

In a major blow to the government, Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the IDF must draft Haredi men.

As a result, the attorney general has ordered the defence establishment to immediately recruit 3000 soldiers from the ultra-Orthodox community.

The decision comes after nine years of legal and political wrangling and is a major win for judicial independence and mainstream Israel against ultra-Orthodox leverage over Israeli politics.

The ruling of the extended panel of nine High Court justices, led by acting president of Israel's Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman, stated that "in the midst of a gruelling war, the burden of inequality is harsher than ever and demands a solution".

The justices noted in their ruling that when many soldiers are sacrificing their lives, "discrimination regarding the most precious thing of all – life itself – is of the worst kind".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition that a new draft exemption law for Haredim will pass before the deadline of July 28, when the summer session of the Knesset ends.

If the exemption law does not get through, Haredi coalition partners could leave and dissolve the Knesset at the beginning of the next parliamentary session.

But they may also decide to stay, knowing that they would not be better off under an alternative government.

“We'll leave the government, and then what?" said one Haredi legislator. "We have no choice but to stay."

"Discrimination regarding the most precious thing of all – life itself – is of the worst kind."

Supreme Court ruling ordering Haredi draft

Currently out of 13,000 eligible candidates, only 1,200 Ultra-Orthodox men join the IDF ranks each year. 

So, while the order to draft 3000 is a major blow to Haredim, they also understand it could have been much worse.

Many young Haredim register in yeshivas to avoid the draft but don’t actually study.

The law that temporarily grants exemptions from military conscription to yeshiva students expired on July 1 last year. A few days before its expiration, the government granted Defence Minister Yoav Gallant the authority not to enforce the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men for a fixed period, during which, the government guaranteed a new bill would be passed that would settle the issue, which could be legislated into law.

When the deadline for this new legislation expired, Netanyahu requested another extension from the High Court. This, the prime minister explained, was due to the needs of the war in Gaza.

The High Court has ruled a policy that so significantly hinders equality cannot be enacted by a government decision alone but requires the legislation of a new exemption law. 

In the absence of the exemption law, it has now ordered the Defence establishment to begin drafting young men from the yeshivas and ordered the government to withdraw funding from yeshivas that don’t cooperate.

Arab-speaking social media accounts showed much interest in the decision, citing Israeli military leadership’s statements regarding the shortage of manpower following the war as “success of the resistance”. Some claimed that this decision came to compensate “the thousands of soldiers who fell in Gaza and the tens of thousands expected to fall in Lebanon”.

READ MORE

In blow to Netanyahu's Government, Israel's top court rules state must draft ultra-Orthodox into IDF (Haaretz)

Top court ruling on Haredi draft law sends ultra-Orthodox parties scrambling, and puts Netanyahu's coalition at risk (Haaretz)

After court ruling, AG tells IDF to immediately start drafting 3,000 Haredi students (Times of Israel)

Explained | The political crisis in Israel over exempting ultra-Orthodox from army service (Haaretz)

'Internal conflicts explode': Arab world celebrates Supreme Court’s haredi draft decision (Jerusalem Post)

Evading national service in the Jewish state is the opposite of authentic Judaism (David Horovitz, Times of Israel)

Israel's top court may have paved the way for the new Haredi Jew, if not a new government (Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz)

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