Orthodox Jews military

By Paul Arps from The Netherlands (Two orthodox Jews (Jerusalem, Israël 2013)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Israel’s Supreme Court decision a blow to the Netanyahu regime

The Supreme Court in Israel during the second week of September canceled the arrangement set by the present Israeli Government that permitted Orthodox Jews to avoid compulsory military service altogether. The court called the arrangement unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Supreme Court said the ruling will be effective within a year.

The ruling was given out by outgoing President of the Supreme Court, Miriam Naor, who presided over a nine-member justice panel. The ruling itself was eight for, one dissenting. The majority of the justices consented with the petitioners' position, the Movement for Quality Government, that the present law continues to perpetuate the inequality between the religious and the secular youth. The former is exempt from military enlistment while the latter is compelled by law to do so.

To arrive at their conclusion, the justices went through the data thrown up by the draft mechanism. Subsequent analysis revealed the rate of military enlistment by yeshiva or religious students were reduced when the legal framework to sidestep military duty was in force. The justices observed there was hardly any enlistment of the Haredi yeshiva students.

This Israeli Supreme Court judgment was a big blow to the already fragile governing coalition under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. The question of pushing ultra-Orthodox young men studying in the many religious seminaries dotting the city have troubled the small but highly militarized country for many years now. Majority of the Israeli population are not happy with this arrangement, their children are compelled to enroll in the military draft when they reach 18 years of age. Their college education gets delayed by about three years.

In an indication of the stormy welcome Netanyahu will face when he returns to Israel from his foreign tour, two senior Netanyahu Cabinet members reacted with vastly different actions on the news of the ruling. Aryeh Deri, of Shas party, an ultra-Orthodox political entity, and who is also the country's Interior Minister, said that he had the agreement of the prime minister to present a strict law to bypass the rulings made by the Supreme Court. In contrast, Avigdor Lieberman, the Defense Minister, said that he has made the plan to propose a brand-new law which will impose compulsory military service on not only ultra-Orthodox Jews but also among the Arab citizens. Lieberman belongs to the right wing but secular Jewish Home Party.

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