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Israel’s top court rules ultra-Orthodox Jews must be drafted into military, in blow to Netanyahu

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, delivering a blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has the potential to unravel his ruling coalition.

The court also ordered the government to withdraw funding from any religious schools, or yeshivas, whose students do not comply with draft notices.

“At this time there is no legal framework that makes it possible to distinguish between yeshiva students and those destined for military service,” the court said. “Accordingly, the state does not have the authority to order a blanket avoidance of their conscription.”

For all intents and purposes, Ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi) Jews have been exempt from national mandatory military service since Israel’s founding. Ultra-Orthodox Jews view religious study as fundamental to the preservation of Judaism, as important to Israel’s defense as the military.

Haredi parties have been staunchly opposed to efforts to get young ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military. Netanyahu’s fragile government coalition relies on two Haredi parties – United Torah Judaism and Shas – to govern. He has for weeks been trying to advance legislation through Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, that would enshrine in law a draft exemption for Haredi men.

Netanyahu’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, has publicly criticized Netanyahu’s attempt to exempt Haredi Jews.

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has struck down the Haredi exemption. In 1998, the court told the government that allowing Haredim to get out of conscription violated equal protection principles. In the decades since, successive governments and Knessets have tried to solve the issue, only to be told again and again by the court that their efforts were illegal.

In a February poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute, 64% of Israeli respondents and 70% of Jewish Israeli respondents said that the Haredi exemption “should be changed.” The pollsters spoke with Israeli adults – 600 in Hebrew and 150 in Arabic.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This post appeared first on

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