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Yielding to ultra-Orthodox pressure, coalition chair says IDF Draft Law to be passed before judicial reform continues

National Service Law will regulate draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men

Young ultra-Orthodox men block a road during a protest against the ultra-Orthodox draft bill, outside the city of Bnei Brak, February 9, 2022. (Photo: Flash90)

The judicial reform will be put on hold until a new National Service Law is passed by the Knesset during the next legislative session, coalition chairman Ofir Katz (Likud party) announced in an interview with Ynet news on Thursday.

"This is the order: The draft law first, and only after that the composition of the committee for the selection of judges will be changed," Katz said. "The draft law is something that in the end the government has to solve because many governments have tried."

"There were many High Court rulings that actually intervened and demanded that this thing be enacted. Yes, this is something we will have to enact in the next session of the Knesset,” he added.

The National Service Law, also known as the IDF Draft Law, regulates the terms of the exemption of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) men from the draft into the Israel Defense Forces.

The current law was passed in 2015 but ruled unconstitutional by the High Court two years later for violating the idea of equality. Specifically, the court said the law did not contain mechanisms for enforcing ultra-Orthodox enlistment.

The amendment of the law has been delayed for years, partly because the ultra-Orthodox parties have feared that the High Court would strike it down again. 

For this reason, they intend to pass the law together with a limited override clause, which was originally part of the judicial reform and would prevent the High Court from overturning it.

“We still don't know what the law will look like, how it will be drafted and what the numbers will be, that's something we don't know yet - but the law will be enacted in the next session of the Knesset," Katz told Ynet.

In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the law to amend the composition of the Judge Selection Committee will be the last piece of judicial reform legislation.

In response, Haredi leaders threatened to boycott any other legislation if the National Service Law wouldn’t be passed first.

Netanyahu’s camp now seems to have acquiesced to Haredi demands, but the potential fallout from within the coalition, especially from the judicial reform’s main architect Justice Minister Yariv Levin, is expected.

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

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