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Bombshell ruling: Israeli High Court unanimously orders gov’t to recruit ultra-Orthodox men, stop funding for students

Haredi politicians outraged but don’t threaten to blow up coalition yet

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men march in protest of the Israeli army's mandatory draft. Aug. 13, 2019. (Photo by Flash90)

Israel’s High Court ruled unanimously on Tuesday that the State of Israel can no longer legally exempt ultra-Orthodox men studying in religious schools from being drafted for army service, and, therefore, must also end halt funding for the students.

All nine justices agreed that no legal framework exists to continue the exemption that differentiates between young ultra-Orthodox men and every other 18-year-old Israeli who is obligated to army service.

“In the absence of a legal framework for exemption from conscription, it is not possible to continue to transfer support funds to yeshivas and kollels [religious schools] for students who did not receive an exemption or whose military service was not postponed,” the judges wrote in their ruling.

The ruling may have dramatic consequences for the country, as up to 67,000 ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) young men are now potentially eligible to be called up for service.

Crucially, the court didn’t specify a target number or a timeframe for the government to start the recruitment process, leaving the government room to find a solution that will not lead to possibly violent mass protests by thousands of Haredis, as has been feared.

“It should be understood that even when exercising this authority for formulating a program for the gradual conscription of yeshiva students, the military authorities are obligated to act in accordance with the principles of administrative law,” the court noted.

The court also mentioned the IDF’s statement that it couldn’t recruit all available Haredis at once and could only draft about 3,000 Haredi men immediately, giving the IDF time to prepare a new framework for Haredi recruitment gradually.

Moreover, despite outraged responses from Haredi politicians, none explicitly called to exit the government, making it unlikely the coalition will break apart over the issue immediately.

Haredi leaders had indicated they would be open to compromise, granted the decision wouldn't be too drastic.

“The ultra-Orthodox know that if they leave the government, they will not return to any government in the coming years,” wrote Yanki Farber, a journalist for the Haredi outlet “Behadrey Haredim.”

While the court also didn’t specify when the funding for yeshiva students would be halted, Channel 12 news political analyst Amit Segal claimed the funding would be stopped on August 9 at the end of the school year.

Many senior Haredi politicians issued harsh condemnations of the court ruling.

Shas party chairman, Aryeh Deri, wrote: “The Jewish people survived persecutions, pogroms and wars only thanks to maintaining their uniqueness - the Torah and the mitzvot [commandments]. This is our secret weapon against all enemies, as promised by the creator of the world.”

“There is no power in the world that can cut off the people of Israel from studying the Torah, and anyone who has tried to do so in the past has failed miserably. No arbitrary ruling will abolish the society of Torah students in the Land of Israel, which is the branch on which we all sit,” Deri wrote.

Moshe Gafni, a senior official in the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party, said: “There is not a single judge there who understands the value of studying the Torah and their contribution to the people of Israel in all generations.”

UTJ leader Yitzhak Goldknopf called the ruling “very unfortunate and disappointing.”

“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,” Goldknopf added.

The ruling followed a nine-justice panel earlier in June that heard petitions advocating for the immediate conscription of eligible ultra-Orthodox Jewish men into military service.

That hearing was the first time the justices strongly indicated their intention to solve this long-standing issue once and for all.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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