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Could Israeli Ruling to Draft Ultra-Orthodox Jews Weaken Netanyahu?

© AFP 2023 / THOMAS COEX Ultra-Orthodox Jews leave the site after collecting water from a mountain spring near Jerusalem to be used in baking unleavened bread, known as Matzoth, during the Maim Shelanu (Rested Water) ceremony on April 2, 2015.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews leave the site after collecting water from a mountain spring near Jerusalem to be used in baking unleavened bread, known as Matzoth, during the Maim Shelanu (Rested Water) ceremony on April 2, 2015. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.06.2024
Tel Aviv has ordered the army to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews for compulsory military service. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current coalition largely relies on parties that oppose the court's move. How could the development affect the situation in the country?
Israel's Supreme Court stated that "invalid selective enforcement" of conscription rules "represents a serious violation of the rule of law" on June 25, ruling that ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Israelis, must join the military along with their peers.
"In the midst of a grueling war, the burden of inequality is harsher than ever and demands a solution," the court explained.
Ultra-Orthodox men have been exempt from draft for decades. According to some estimates, the community now accounts for 13-14% of the Israeli population - which is edging toward 10 million.
The ruling could deal a blow to the ruling coalition as the Jewish Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties – Netanyahu's allies – previously threatened to abandon it if exemptions for Haredi men were revoked.

"So far, at this stage, no dramatic changes are expected in the coalition - the government will hold its ground, but the 'factor of instability and disagreement' at some point may prompt the prime minister to hold snap elections," Professor Zeev Khanin, lecturer in political science and sociology of modern Jewish communities at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, told Sputnik.

The professor added that Netanyahu's early election maneuver could work if the prime minister strengthens his position through a hostage deal. "But this is not yet obvious: Hamas believes that time is on its side and it is in control of the situation," the pundit remarked.
Khanin explained that the court's ruling doesn't mean an immediate conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews. He expects that the Ministry of Defense will determine "the conscription quotas" for representatives of the Haredi youth first, which make take some time.
"It is expected that in the next draft, 3,000 representatives of this group should come to the military registration and enlistment offices, and then the army will decide what exactly to do with them. It is clear that they will not be sent to the front, because this requires serious preparations. But they will be able to replace those soldiers who are involved in 'military support operations'," the academic explained, referring, in particular, to rear services.
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According to Khanin, the court's decision was driven by two major factors.
First, the principle of fair distribution of military, civil and economic burdens is very important for Israeli society, he said.
The academic pointed out that most Israelis demanded that ultra-Orthodox men serve in the army and then integrate into the labor market. While being a small fraction of Israeli society, they were not drafted. Today, the trend has gone out of proportion, according to Khanin: "Today we are talking about tens of thousands of people out of our 10 million population."
Second, Israel's ongoing war in the Gaza Strip and several other fronts has made the issue especially relevant.
"The [Israeli] army needs people… for participation in police operations, for conducting military operations, for supporting the army, and so on, and for the civil service - medical, social, and so on," Khanin stressed.
In response to the court ruling, Israeli press has said that the Netanyahu government could in theory bring forward a bill granting blanket exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. However, doing so wouldn't be easy given that several Likud lawmakers have signaled they will not vote for such legislation amid the ongoing war.
The clauses in the Law for Security Service that provided exemptions for young ultra-Orthodox men expired in June last year, opening the door for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to conscript anyone eligible for military service.
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