Haredi men at the IDF conscription base in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haredi MKs and ministers reacted with predictable fury, issuing dire imprecations at the High Court of Justice over its decision to strike down the military service exemptions handed out to haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and promising to legislate around the ruling.
Meanwhile, draft equality campaigners, including MK Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party, declared victory over the haredi parties, which eviscerated a haredi conscription law passed by the previous government at Lapid’s behest.
United Torah Judaism chairman and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman described the ruling as “the worst and most wretched decision in the history of terrible decisions in the Jewish world.” He said the judges were intent on restricting yeshiva students and “harming the most cherished aspect of haredi Judaism, which is the holy yeshiva students whose Torah is their profession.”
Litzman said the haredi parties would not allow “any force in the world” to prevent a person from studying Torah and would change the “draconian” decision of the court.
Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni made similar promises, essentially declaring that the ruling would be ignored in practice.
“Those who study Torah will continue to do so with or without the High Court of Justice,” stormed Gafni.
“I totally reject the decision of the High Court,” he fumed. “And in the upcoming year we will amend this, in spite of the judges who have no idea of the significance of those who study Torah and that our right to existence depends on yeshiva students, as does the entire world.”
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said the ruling proved that the court was “severely disconnected from the Jewish people,” claiming that it has been “Torah study which has strengthened us against persecution and decrees throughout the generations.”
Deri, like Gafni, also promised that the ruling would be ignored and that yeshiva students would continue in their studies, regardless, through new legislation the government would now formulate.
And it was not just the haredi politicians who denounced the court over the ruling. Senior national-religious ministers and MKs weighing in as well, despite the traditionally strong ideologically commitment of that sector to IDF service.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, together with fellow Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, castigated the court for its intervention, saying the judges were “a law unto themselves” and were acting in contravention of the will of the public.
“We will act immediately in the new Knesset session to legislate for an override clause to put an end to the rule of tyranny of the High Court,” said Ariel and Smotrich.
“The only way to encourage enlistment is through dialogue and broad agreement of community leaders and their representatives in Knesset, and not in the courts and through coercive efforts, which will bring about the opposite effect and harm the IDF.”
Lapid summed up the ruling as being a victory for values, the spirit of the IDF and for IDF soldiers themselves.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu can’t continue to avoid a decision, the IDF draft is for everyone,” said Lapid.
“Everyone, not just for suckers who don’t have a party in the coalition. We’re done being suckers. The court decided that we will not have first- and second-class citizens in Israel.”
Lapid also called on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman – who has historically campaigned fiercely for haredi conscription but who is yet to comment on Tuesday’s ruling – to ensure legislation to circumvent the decision.
“I call upon Defense Minister Liberman: It’s in your hands now. You’re responsible for the IDF. You need to call a press conference and say, ‘Everyone serves in the IDF or there won’t be a government.’”