Explained: Israel supreme court's ruling on drafting Haredim into IDF and its political implications

The Haredi men no longer fall under the blanket military service exemptions

Israel supreme court ruling Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against attempts to change government policy that grants ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from military conscription, in Jerusalem | Reuters

With the High Court of Justice unanimously ruling that the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men for military service, the young Haredi men are no longer eligible for exemptions from army service.

The Law for Security Service, allowing blanket military service exemptions to Haredi men had expired last year. The government decision from June 2023 instructing the army not to begin drafting eligible Haredi men was termed "illegal" by the court.

The government must therefore actively work to conscript ultra-Orthodox recruits to the IDF, said the court.

Haredi Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that is more conservative and highly religious. There are around 12,80,000 Haredi people in Israel as per the 2022 records. Reportedly, they constitute around 13.3 per cent of Israel's total population.

The court’s ruling comes at a time of raging Israel-Hamas war. “Non-enforcement of the provisions of the Security Service Law creates severe discrimination between those who are required to serve” and those who are exempted from army service, read the court’s ruling.

“In these days, in the midst of a severe war, the burden of inequality is more acute than ever — and requires the promotion of a sustainable solution to this issue,” the court declared.

Without a law differentiating between Jewish seminary students and other draftees, Israel's compulsory military service system must apply to the ultra-Orthodox just like any other citizens, ruled the court.

“We determine that there is no legal basis for avoiding the recruitment of yeshiva students at this time; that the state must act to enforce the Law for Security Service on yeshiva students; that there is no legal authority to continue transferring the [financial] support for these students; and that government resolution 1724 was issued without authority and is void,” the court ruled.

However, the blanket exemptions for the Haredi men were not well received by the secular men. Since the war with Hamas, the divide has widened as the IDF has called up tens of thousands of soldiers in order to increase its manpower as the war rages on.

Meanwhile, the court's ruling is a big blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition. Ultra-Orthodox parties' powerful figures are key partners of the Netanyahu government and if exemptions are ended it could even lead to the collapse of the coalition leading to new elections.

The lawyers appearing for the government had argued that forcing ultra-Orthodox men to enlist would tear apart the Israel society.

The court pointed out that the state was carrying out invalid selective enforcement in serious violation of the rule of the law and the principle under which all individuals are equal before the law, reported the Times of Israel.

The court also ruled that state subsidies for seminaries where exempted ultra-Orthodox men study should remain suspended.

Reacting to the court’s ruling, cabinet minister Yitzhak Goldknopf said that it was “very unfortunate” and “disappointing”. Goldknopf heads one of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition.

“The state of Israel was established in order to be a home for the Jewish people whose Torah is the bedrock of its existence. The Holy Torah will prevail,” he wrote.

In June, the government had sought a time of 10 months for formulating and passing a new law reinstating the exemptions for the Haredi men.


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