A group of parents of soon-to-be IDF soldiers along with the "Brothers in Arms" protest movement warned in a letter to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday that it would appeal to the Supreme Court if the government did not begin procedures to draft eligible Israeli ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men to the IDF, after the provision in Israel's National Defense Law that enabled haredi exemption expired on July 1.
The law that expired earlier this week, which passed in 2014 and was amended in 2015, set allotments of haredi draftees to the IDF per year and sanctioned yeshivot that do not meet these allotments. The law set two "adaptation periods" – the first ended in 2020, and the second on June 30, 2023. The ending of the second period means that the state no longer has the legal authority to continue not recruiting eligible haredi citizens.
In September 2017, the Supreme Court deemed the bill unconstitutional, since the exemption it gave was ruled to be disproportionately sweeping and was thus constituted unjustified discrimination. The court initially gave the Knesset a year to amend the bill, but this was delayed 15 times due to the recurring elections since then. The most recent extension was supposed to last until July 31, but the bill's "natural" expiration rendered the final extension irrelevant.
Israel's cabinet on June 25 approved a plan, according to which a new law would only be passed by the end of March 2024. According to the plan, during the so-called "interim period" until the new law is approved, the government "directs the defense minister to direct the chief of staff" not to take steps to draft eligible haredi men, as long as they "present before the authorities the approval of their studies in a yeshiva based on the needs and demands of the army."
The group of parents along with "Brothers in Arms," the protest group against the government's judicial reforms made up of IDF reservists, argued in the letter that the cabinet's plan "disproportionally and unreasonably harms the populace dedicated to military or civil service; undermines the right to equality and the prohibition of discrimination that are derived from the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty; contradicts all of the Supreme Court's rulings and positions on the issue of drafting yeshiva students; and is not regulated in primary legislation, as required."
The activists warn they will appeal the issue to the Supreme Court
The letter's authors argued therefore that the plan was unlawful, and that if the cabinet did not act to begin drafting eligible haredi conscripts, it would appeal to the Supreme Court.
"While Brothers in Arms are everywhere defending the state, the government's draft-dodging alliance creates a shady plan without law, instead of expanding the circle of those who serve," Brothers in Arms said in a statement that accompanied the letter. "We will not come to terms with the shady draft-dodging plan, and if this unlawful situation does not change, we will appeal to the Supreme Court in order to create here a new contract between the citizens – a contract of real distribution of the burden of service," the movement added.
A shortened version of the letter was also sent to IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy.
The state has argued that the law gives the IDF 12 months to draft potential conscripts whose exemption has run out, and therefore there was nothing unlawful about the decision not to immediately begin drafting eligible haredi men.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) took a step further and announced later on Wednesday that they had appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision.
According to MQG's statement, "The government's decision is contrary to the provisions of the Defense Service Law and it creates a new sweeping exemption with a clear lack of authority and contrary to the principle of the rule of law, as well as contrary to the Supreme Court rule established in the Rubinstein ruling, according to which the Minister of Defense can no longer assume the authority to decide on the issue of drafting yeshiva students for whom Torah is their way of life, and that the issue should be decided only through a legislative decision only."
MQG added that the government's decision "seriously violates the principle of equality before the law and maintains a discriminatory and selective enforcement policy and that there is an extreme lack of proportionality in the government's decision, the whole purpose of which is contrary to the law."