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Israel’s High Court Rules Govt Must Draft Haredim

(JNS) Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled by 9-0 on Tuesday, June 25 that the government must draft haredi men into the military.

“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that at this time there is no legal framework that makes it possible to distinguish between students of the yeshivas and others” with regard to mandatory military service, said the two-page ruling by the nine-justice panel. As such, the state does not have the authority to prevent their enlistment, it continued.

Moreover, as there is no legal mechanism to support their exemption from service. “It is not possible to continue transferring support funds for yeshivas and kollels for students who did not receive an exemption or whose military service was not postponed,” the ruling states.

The court called the current exemption mandate, whereby yeshiva students receive temporary deferrals until reaching the age of exemption from service, “unconstitutional.”

The document concludes by accusing the government of “seriously undermining the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law,” by continuing to delay the enlistment of haredi men.

The petitioners had argued that the state must begin drafting yeshiva students because the law exempting them from mandatory service expired last year. The government representative requested that the court reject the petitions and instead allow the Knesset to continue the legislative process toward a solution, but the court refused.

Israel’s haredim consider military service a distraction from Torah study and a threat to their way of life. However, Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and the ensuing war have heightened the demands of the general public that the haredim contribute their share to the defense of the nation.

The enlistment bill currently working its way through the Knesset reflects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to find an agreed-upon formula with the haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), which have threatened to quit the government if the mass of haredi yeshiva students are drafted.

The haredi parties have for years made up the most stable element of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, their constancy won by the prime minister’s readiness to continue funding their seminaries and providing other benefits. According to reports, haredi political leaders have told Netanyahu that if he passes a law with which they don’t agree, they will quit his government, but that if it’s the court that imposes a solution, they will stick by him.

Tuesday’s ruling comes on the heels of a contentious hearing yesterday at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, where lawmakers debated Netanyahu’s enlistment bill (originally put forward by National Unity Party head Benny Gantz in the previous government).

The bill seeks to lower the age of exemption from mandatory service for haredi yeshiva students from 26 to 21, in an effort to get more haredi men to enter the labor force. The draft legislation would also gradually increase haredi enlistment, setting a haredi conscription target of 35% of male students by 2036. There are currently 63,000 haredi men eligible for the draft.

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