Supreme Court: Israel’s ultra-Orthodox must join army

A Jerusalem court accepted two petitions calling for the immediate conscription of ultra-Orthodox men into the army. “At the height of a difficult war, the burden of unequal distribution of burdens is greater than ever and requires a solution,” the judgment said. There is no legal basis for exempting the ultra-Orthodox from compulsory military service.

The majority of Jews in Israel must do military service. The issue of conscription has recently become a test for Netanyahu’s government, which is also debating the further course of the Gaza war. Observers see the alliance’s stability threatened by the controversy over compulsory military service, as it is based on hard-line religious partners who strictly reject the conscription of young men from their communities.

Definitely religious parties can break the alliance

If the exception falls, these parties may leave the coalition, leading to the fall of the government and new elections. During the trial, the government’s lawyers told the court that forcing ultra-Orthodox men into prison would “tear apart Israeli society.”

IMAGO/Sayed Khaq

Already in early June, there were clashes with the ultra-Orthodox population over the exemption from compulsory military service.

The right-wing conservative ruling party, Likud, criticized the ruling. It said in an initial statement that a real solution to the recruitment controversy could only be provided by the “historic legislation” currently preparing for approval in parliament. The party accused even the ultra-Orthodox of not really wanting coercion, but simply wanting to overthrow the government.

In a post, he did not say whether his party would withdraw from the government.

Exceptions existed for decades

For decades ultra-Orthodox men were exempt from mandatory military service in Israel. But these expired three months ago. However, Netanyahu’s government has failed to pass legislation confirming the relief measures.

The High Court later ordered the removal of state subsidies for ultra-Orthodox men of military age attending religious schools. The court also confirmed the verdict on Tuesday. At the end of March, Attorney General Kali Baharau-Miara also decided that the military was obligated to draft religious students who had previously been released en masse.

63,000 men are affected

According to the court, there are 63,000 men. The military had urgently warned of a major shortage in view of the Gaza war. Critics denounced the exemption for ultra-Orthodox men as unfair. The Gaza war deepened the gap between the camps.

In Israel, men are required to serve in the military for three years and women for two years. The governing coalition has already fractured in 2018 over a dispute over a law that would make it progressively more strict for religious people to serve as weapons. But there are also ultra-Orthodox men who serve voluntarily. Strict religious women are employed only on voluntary basis.

The ultra-Orthodox community makes up 13 percent of Israel’s ten million people. Due to their high birth rate, this proportion is expected to rise to 19 percent by 2035.

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