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Israel’s High Court convenes to discuss petitions on IDF haredi draft – Israel Politics

The High Court of Justice held a high-stakes hearing on Sunday on the controversial issue of the long-standing exemption of ultra-Orthodox men from military service in the IDF. The hearing could lead the court to permanently order the state to begin recruiting ultra-Orthodox men, a move that could have dramatic social and political consequences.

The two issues at the heart of the hearing

The hearing focused on two questions: first, whether or not the government could continue to avoid recruiting ultra-Orthodox men into the Israeli military, after the law allowing them to do so expired last year; and second, whether or not the government could continue to fund ultra-Orthodox yeshivot for military-age students who no longer had a legal exemption from service in the IDF.

These two questions were first heard on March 28. The high court then ruled that the state could no longer continue to exempt ultra-Orthodox men as a group from the service, and that it could no longer provide funding to ultra-Orthodox students whose exemption had expired. However, this decision was temporary, and the question at the heart of Sunday’s hearing was whether this temporary order should be made into a permanent order. The petitioners in this case included a wide variety of civilians and civil organizations, such as the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.

The High Court of Justice ruled in 1998 that the government did not have the authority to exempt an entire group from service in the Israeli army because it amounted to discrimination. A number of laws have been proposed since then to regulate the issue. The most recent law, which granted ultra-Orthodox men the option to delay their service each year until they receive a permanent exemption at age 26, expired on July 1, 2023. On June 25, the government decided to give yourself until April 1, 2024 to return. with a new law. As this decision has expired, there is no longer a legal basis for the exemption.

Police disperse protesters during a demonstration against the IDF’s ultra-Orthodox conscription, outside the High Court in Jerusalem, June 2, 2024 (credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Av. Doron Taubman, representing the government, argued that the government did not dispute that it was legally required to recruit ultra-Orthodox men and that failing to do so was illegal. However, Taubman argued that the Defense Department had the prerogative to decide when and how to conscript these ultra-Orthodox men into the Israeli military and that the court should not intervene.

On the issue of funding, Taubman agreed that yeshivot should not receive funding for ultra-Orthodox men who ignore the draft ordinances. However, even though the law exempting ultra-Orthodox men has expired, they have not yet been summoned and therefore are not violating any proposed order. The government could then continue to provide funds, Taubman argued.

Taubman is a private lawyer and he was hired by the government after the attorney general’s office, which is the government’s statutory representative in court, refused to support the government’s positions.

The hearing took place before an extended bench

The hearing took place in a packed courtroom and before an expanded bench of nine judges. Some exchanges between the lawyers and the judges were heated, and at one point Likud MK Tally Gotliv, who attended the hearing but was not participating, attempted to interrupt the judges and present a argument. Some of Taubman’s statements drew incredulous laughter from the crowd.

At one point, an ultra-Orthodox man began shouting that he would “die and not enlist.” He was quickly removed from the courtroom.

The expanded nine-member bench, led by Acting Chief Justice Uzi Vogelman, peppered Taubman with questions.

On the question of the blanket exemption, the justices asked Taubman whether the Defense Department could continue to delay the exemption indefinitely. The attorney general’s office wrote in a court brief Thursday that the IDF was prepared to enlist 3,000 ultra-Orthodox men through the end of 2024, and the judges asked Taubman if, for example, the Defense Department had the legal prerogative to abstain. to do.

The hearing also touched on the government’s controversial judicial reforms, which it has attempted to advance in 2023. Deputy Attorney General Aner Hellman argued during the hearing that the government’s conduct during the case had the same objective as judicial reforms: to relieve oneself of the duty to conform to the interpretation of the law given by the attorney general. On at least two occasions during proceedings related to this case, the government approved proposals that the AG found illegal.

The Chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, Adv. Eliad Shraga argued that the number of 3,000 ultra-Orthodox men in 2024 was too low and part of an attempt to continue to delay implementation of the law. Shraga called on the court to clarify in its ruling that the state must act to recruit greater numbers of ultra-Orthodox men. In a video statement released later on Sunday, Shraga said: “I think the wind is clearly blowing in our direction. »

Av. Dafna Holtz-Lechner, who represented a group of 240 mothers of soldiers, added that the High Court should also set a clear timetable for the government to carry out its duties, so that it can then hold the government accountable if he doesn’t. meet deadlines.

Av. Moshe Shapira, who represented the Ayalon Forum for Human Rights, added that a decisive decision by the High Court would create a ripple effect that would lead to greater integration of haredim into Israeli society. Shapira cited as an example the famous 1995 high court decision that allowed Alice Miller to become the first woman to join the prestigious Air Force pilot training program. This decision not only affected Miller; it prevented thousands of other women from serving in the Israeli military in roles not previously available to them, and Shapira argued that a historic decision regarding ultra-Orthodox conscription would have a similar effect.

A poll released Sunday by Army Radio and conducted by Manu Geva’s Midgam Institute found that 81 percent of haredim supported the idea that haredim should not join the Israeli army at all, regardless of the circumstances. , and about 65% of haredim said that ultra-Orthodox parties should leave the government coalition if the state begins recruiting ultra-Orthodox men.

The issue indeed has significant political ramifications. The Haredi parties in the coalition have a total of 16 seats, and it only takes one of the two parties, Shas (nine seats) and United Torah Judaism (seven seats), to leave the coalition to cancel the government majority of 64 MPs. in parliament. Not among the 64 MPs is MP Minister Without Portfolio Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, as Gantz is likely to leave the government in the near future after issuing an ultimatum several weeks ago over a hostage deal and the end of the current war. in Gaza.

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