update deskIsrael at War

Gallant says IDF to start recruiting ultra-Orthodox men next month

The announcement follows the Supreme Court's landmark ruling that the government must draft haredi Jews into the military.

Ultra-Orthodox youngsters protesting outside an IDF recruitment center. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.
Ultra-Orthodox youngsters protesting outside an IDF recruitment center. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed on Tuesday that the military will start recruiting ultra-Orthodox men for service in the country’s armed forces next month.

The announcement came after the minister held a discussion with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and other senior army officials about preparations for drafting Haredi Jews in light of last month’s landmark Supreme Court ruling that the government must draft this sector of the civilian population into the military.

Following the meeting, Gallant “approved the IDF’s recommendation to issue [draft] orders” to members of the ultra-Orthodox community next month, “in accordance with the [IDF’s] absorption and screening capabilities, and after a significant process of refining the existing data regarding potential recruits is carried out,” his office said in a statement.

A campaign to raise awareness in the ultra-Orthodox community about the new policy will be timed to coincide with the recruitment efforts. It will be launched in the coming month.

The statement said that Gallant and Halevi “concluded in the discussion that this is an operational need and a complex social issue. One must act according to the principle of ‘successful recruitment’ in order to reach a significant service for members of the ultra-Orthodox sector, while maintaining their lifestyle, and to bring an increasing number of recruits in an orderly process.”

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled by 9-0 on June 25 that the government must draft ultra-Orthodox men into the military.

“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that at this time there is no legal framework that makes it possible to distinguish between students of the yeshivahs and others” with regard to mandatory military service, said the two-page ruling by the nine-justice panel. As such, the state does not have the authority to prevent their enlistment, it continued.

Moreover, as there is no legal mechanism to support their exemption from service, “It is not possible to continue transferring support funds for yeshivahs and kollels for students who did not receive an exemption or whose military service was not postponed,” the ruling states.

The court called the current exemption scheme, whereby yeshivah students receive temporary deferrals until reaching the age of exemption from service, “unconstitutional.”

The document concludes by accusing the government of “seriously undermining the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law,” by continuing to delay the enlistment of ultra-Orthodox men.

The petitioners had argued that the state must begin drafting yeshivah students because the law exempting them from mandatory service expired last year. The government representative requested that the court reject the petitions and instead allow the Knesset to continue the legislative process toward a solution, but the court refused.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox consider military service a distraction from Torah study and a threat to their way of life. However, Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and the ensuing war have heightened the demands of the general public that the haredim contribute their share to the defense of the nation.

The enlistment bill currently working its way through the Knesset reflects Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to find an agreed-upon formula with the ultra-Orthodox parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism), which have threatened to quit the government if the mass of haredi yeshivah students are drafted. 

The haredi parties have for years made up the most stable element of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, their constancy won by the prime minister’s readiness to continue funding their seminaries and providing other benefits. According to reports, haredi political leaders have told Netanyahu that if he passes a law with which they don’t agree, they will quit his government, but that if it’s the court that imposes a solution, they will stick by him.

The ruling came on the heels of a contentious hearing the previous day at the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, where lawmakers debated Netanyahu’s enlistment bill (originally put forward by National Unity Party head Benny Gantz in the previous government).

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