On Friday, Israel’s High Court of Justice gave the government until September to explain why its new military conscription law, passed by the Knesset in March, should not be ruled illegal and struck down because it exempts so many haredim from military service.
High Court Orders Government To Explain Why Pro-Haredi Bias In New Military Draft Law Should Not Cause The Court To Strike It Down
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
On Friday, Israel’s High Court of Justice gave the government until September to explain why its new military conscription law, passed by the Knesset in March, should not be ruled illegal and struck down.
The government was previously tasked by the court with writing and passing a new military draft law that did not discriminate in favor of haredim by granting them blanket exemptions from military service as long as they continued to study in haredi yeshivas.
A haredi man who stopped studying in one of those haredi yeshivas and joined a Zionist Orthodox yeshiva, or who left a haredi yeshiva to enroll in college, would under the old law be drafted.
Under that old law, all Zionist Orthodox students in Zionist Orthodox yeshivas, and all college age non-Orthodox Jewish men and women – even if they were enrolled in university – were drafted. Only haredi men and women were completely exempt from military or civilian service.
Friday’s High Court order to the government came in response to a petition filed by the Movement For Quality Government (MFQG) and the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden, Ha’aretz reported. That MFQG-Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden petition and two similar petitions will reportedly be heard by an expanded panel of nine justices in September.
The MFQG and the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden argue that the new military draft law is unconstitutional because it violates the right to equality.
(You can see a history of High Court decisions dating back to the 1970s on the issue of draft deferments for haredi yeshiva students posted by Ha’aretz here.)
As the new law is constructed, there will be a haredi quota for military service that will grow year-by-year and won’t begin to take effect until mid-2017 at the earliest.
But the definitions of who is haredi under the law and the law’s construction make it easy for haredi leaders to fill those quotas with ex-haredim, ba’al teshuvas, converts and traditionally religious Sefardim.
The new law also grants haredi 1,800 blanket exemptions per year for “illuim” (gifted students) whose status as illuim will be determined by haredi rabbis, who will also select which students are granted exemptions and which are not.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – both of the right wing Likud Party – have repeatedly assured haredi rabbinic and political leaders that no haredi yeshiva student will ever be drafted against his will, and Ya’alon has already essentially issued blanket exemptions for haredi yeshiva students for the years before the new law takes effect – even though the High Court has previously ruled those types of exemptions are illegal.
Likud desperately needs the support of haredi political parties to maintain power in the next election.