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Israeli attorney general asks High Court to extend March 31 deadline for ultra-Orthodox military draft legislation

Israelis protest outside the army recruitment office in Jerusalem, calling for the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox to the IDF. August 21, 2023. (Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The Office of the Israeli Attorney General reportedly asked the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to extend the March 31 deadline for new ultra-Orthodox military draft legislation.

The office of Attorney General Gali Baharav said there were intense efforts by the Israeli government to formulate new legislation for those being drafted from the conservative ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

“Even though a legislative arrangement regarding yeshiva students and graduates of ultra-Orthodox educational institutions has yet to be formulated, there is currently an intensive dialogue between all the relevant parties, in an attempt to reach a possible outline,” the Attorney General’s Office stated.

The Attorney General’s Office admitted that the continuing war against Hamas in Gaza has further complicated the already complex ultra-Orthodox military draft legislation issue.

“However, at this time there is still no actual outline that can be announced, and according to what was communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry in the state’s announcement on February 15, 2024, this is a uniquely sensitive and complex issue like no other, particularly in the midst of a war and during the term of a national emergency government,” the office stated.

“If the expiration date of the [June 2023] government resolution is not extended by a new decision that will set down a timetable for completing primary legislation by June 30, 2024, there will be no source of legal authority that allows blanket avoidance of the procedures for recruiting [ultra-Orthodox] yeshiva students,” the state authority added.

The issue of ultra-Orthodox military exemption is controversial in the Jewish state, where the majority of the Jewish population, and some minorities, serve in the military. While some Haredim serve in the military, an overwhelming majority of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population do not serve on religious grounds.

The issue became even more critical when the war began and more than 300.000 Israeli reservists were called up for military service to defend the nation against Iranian terror proxy Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Just weeks before the Hamas surprise invasion and brutal attack on Israeli communities, a September poll revealed that a whopping 80% of the Israeli public was in favor of a military draft for the ultra-Orthodox population. In addition, roughly 70% of citizens support public Shabbat transportation, another issue that has caused division within Israeli society for many years.

Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush, the organization that conducted the poll and promotes religious freedom and equality, stressed at the time that Israeli society had reached a critical juncture in the divisions between the general public and the ultra-Orthodox community.

“These statistics are indicative of a pivotal moment or Israeli society. The widening chasm between religious communities, along with declining trust in central institutions, is a red flag for all invested in Israel’s unity and future,” Rabbi Regev warned.

In late October, the Israeli military noted a sharp increase in ultra-Orthodox military enlistment amid the ongoing Hamas war against the Jewish state.

Despite ongoing tensions between religious and secular Israelis, Tel Aviv University professor, Dr. Nechumi Yaffe, believes that a large proportion of ultra-Orthodox Jews want to integrate into mainstream modern Israeli society.

“A significant number of Haredim are aiming to assimilate into the Israeli identity, and their perspective is: 'We don’t want to feel estranged from the Israeli narrative.' The current spike in the number of ultra-Orthodox eager to enlist in the IDF amid this war mirror that sentiment,” Yaffe stated.

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

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