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An ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jewish man walks past Israeli soldiers of the Netzah Yehuda Haredi infantry battalion during their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem.(Photo by: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
High Court gives state little time to pass haredi enlistment law
This latest extension is the third one to be requested and granted, after the state failed to pass a law by September 2018 as demanded by the court.
The High Court of Justice granted the state a six-month extension to pass a law to increase haredi enlistment to the army, by July 28 2019, giving the incoming government a tight deadline to pass the complex and controversial law.

This latest extension is the third one to be requested and granted, after the state failed to pass a law by September 2018 as demanded by the court 12 months prior, when it struck down the previous arrangement as discriminatory against the non-haredi Jewish population.

The outgoing government missed extended deadlines in December and January, but will be hard-pressed to pass a law by the end of July, since elections are on April 9 and it typically takes around two months to form a new government.

If the government is sworn in by early June, it will have less than two months to pass the legislation.

A bill drafted by the Defense Ministry was approved by the Knesset in its first reading, but was opposed initially by Agudat Yisrael and eventually by all the haredi parties, largely because they cannot be seen to back a law that provides for financial sanctions against yeshivas if enlistment targets are not met, as the bill sets out.

The failure to muster a majority in the coalition for the bill was the proximate cause for the dissolution of the 20th Knesset and the calling of early elections.

The contentious and sensitive nature of the legislation means that getting consensus for this bill in the coming elections will be difficult in which ever constellation of parties ends up forming a coalition.

At the same time, it is highly unlikely that the High Court would refuse to grant another extension, since by doing so all haredi men of military age would automatically be obligated to enlist, which would lead to serious social unrest in the haredi community.

It would also generate mass contempt for the rule of law, since many haredi men would refuse to enlist, and it would be physically impossible, not to mention undesirable, to incarcerate so many people.

The IDF could also not absorb the tens of thousands of men who would be required to serve.

This could mean that a fourth extension is requested by the state at the end of July this year to resolve this open sore in Israeli society.

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