Ultra-Orthodox IDF exemptions to remain in place after elections

The law for granting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students exemptions is set to expire Sunday night at midnight.

Haredi man and IDF soldiers in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Haredi man and IDF soldiers in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Despite Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s decision not to request a new extension from the High Court of Justice to allow passage of a new haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment law, blanket military service exemptions will not automatically be canceled.
The law for granting haredi yeshiva students exemptions was set to expire Sunday night at midnight.
Since the Knesset has been dissolved and new elections called, this would in theory mean that all such students would be liable to be drafted into the IDF on Monday.
Last week, Gantz refused to request a further extension from the court, meaning there is now no way to prevent the law from expiring.
But a clause in the Basic Law: Knesset stipulates that if a law expires within four months of the dissolution of the Knesset, it shall remain in effect for three months after the election of a new one.
Haredi yeshiva students of military age, between 18 and 24, will therefore not be subject to the draft come Monday morning.
In September 2017, the High Court struck down a law passed in 2015 that granted blanket exemptions to haredi yeshiva students, stating it was discriminatory and illegal.
It gave the government a year to pass a new law that would take definitive steps to increase the number of haredi men performing military service. But after receiving an extension, the government collapsed in December 2018 and the Knesset dissolved.
Israel faced a cycle of three elections, making it impossible to pass new legislation on the highly sensitive issue, with the COVID-19 crisis and the outgoing government’s instability also a factor.
Due to these problems, the government made numerous requests to the High Court to extend its deadline, and the court acceded.
Last November, however, before the outgoing government collapsed, the court rejected the state’s request for a further extension and gave it a deadline of January 31 to pass a new law.
Now that the Knesset has been dissolved again, it cannot pass legislation until a new Knesset is elected.
Despite the latest delay, a new law requiring substantial increases to haredi enlistment eventually will be passed, according to Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the Hiddush religious pluralism organization.
“The blatant disregard for equality before the law over the military draft issue is so egregious that these games will not hold forever,” he said. “The additional few months’ extension is a blot, but the battle will continue, and we and others will be fighting it.”