Minister petitions against his own Likud ministerial colleague

High Court rejects Likud minister’s petition seeking to conscript Arab Israelis

Justices pan Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem over inadequacies in documents he submitted, against backdrop of political crisis over ultra-Orthodox military exemptions

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem David Amsalem at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem David Amsalem at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice rejected on Monday a highly unusual petition filed by Regional Cooperation Minister David Amsalem Dudi Amsalem against Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, demanding that they act to draft Arab Israeli citizens into military service.

Amsalem filed his petition against a fellow cabinet member against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis surrounding whether ultra-Orthodox Israelis will be mandated to serve in the IDF after receiving blanket exemptions since the establishment of the state.

The court upbraided Amsalem for deficiencies in his petition, noting that he has filed a series of similar measures in recent years, including on the issue of Arab enlistment, all of which have been rejected without hearings, since they lacked the necessary evidentiary basis or did not bother to seek a response from the subject of the petition before it was filed.

The court noted that in this petition too Amsalem failed to request a response to his concerns from Gallant or the attorney general. In his previous petition on Arab enlistment in 2022, Amsalem did ultimately send a letter to then-defense minister Benny Gantz, and he appended that document to his latest petition as evidence.

But the three judges adjudicating the petition, including conservative justice Noam Sohlberg, said the letter did not suffice, since a new Knesset and government have been formed since his last effort and that nearly two years had passed since.  They therefore rejected Amsalem’s latest petition without requiring responses from the respondents or holding court hearings.

Amsalem, a fierce Netanyahu loyalist and vitriolic critic of the judiciary, denounced the decision, tweeting, “It’s unthinkable that instead of being a country with a High Court we’re a High Court with has a country. In the kingdom of hypocrites, hatred of Jews overcomes all justice and logic.”

Ultra-Orthodox men arrive at the IDF Recruitment Center at Tel Hashomer, in central Israel, March 28, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Most Jewish Israeli men are required to serve nearly three years followed by years of annual reserve duty. Many Jewish women serve two years. Arab Israelis are not required to serve, though some volunteer.

But the politically powerful ultra-Orthodox, also called Haredim, who make up roughly 13% of Israeli society, have traditionally received exemptions if they are studying full-time in a yeshiva or religious seminary. The exemptions — and the government stipends many yeshiva students receive through age 26 — have infuriated the wider general public.

That frustration has peaked since Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught and the war that has ensued, as soldiers are losing their lives, and some are being asked to lengthen their reserve service amid a manpower shortage and as the threats facing Israel grow.

The political battle over enlistment has thrown Netanyahu’s coalition into disarray, with National Unity’s Benny Gantz threatening to bolt if the Knesset passes a bill allowing blanket exemptions to remain — even if it does satisfy the court — while the Haredim have said they will quit if the government fails to pass legislation to prevent the draft.

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