Home west asia Israel’s Supreme Court Rules Ultra-Orthodox Students Will Be Conscripted Into Military

Israel’s Supreme Court Rules Ultra-Orthodox Students Will Be Conscripted Into Military

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Israeli soldiers stand on top of a tank, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, in Israel. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the government must draft ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students to the conscript military, a decree likely to send shockwaves through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.

Netanyahu’s coalition relies for its survival on two ultra-Orthodox parties that regard longstanding conscription exemptions as key to keeping their constituents in religious seminaries and away from a melting-pot military that might test their conservative customs.

The ultra-Orthodox conscription waiver has become especially charged as Israel’s armed forces, made up mostly of teenaged conscripts and older civilians mobilised for reserve duty, are overstretched by a multi-front war, in Gaza and Lebanon.

“At the height of a difficult war, the burden of inequality is more than ever acute,” the court’s unanimous ruling said.

Most Israelis are bound by law to serve in the military, whereas ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students have been largely exempt for decades.

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These exemptions have long been a source of anger among the secular public, a divide that has widened during the eight-month war.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, whose petition led to the Supreme Court ruling, means that government must begin drafting Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students almost immediately.

“This is a historic victory for the rule of law and the principle of equality in the burden of military service,” says the organization.

The nine judges said they were not specifying at this stage, how the judgement should be implemented.

“We call on the government and the defence minister to implement the decision without delay, to comply with the High Court’s order, and to work immediately to draft ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students,” the organization said.