IDF says it will draft 14,000 ultra-Orthodox teens next year

State responds to petition demanding equality of service with promise to gradually increase enlistment

Ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem protest intention to draft them in July 2012 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem protest intention to draft them in July 2012 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thousands of 18- and 19-year-old ultra-Orthodox men will be drafted into the IDF as of this coming summer, according to plans authorized by the army. The state announced the plans on Monday, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the government replace the expired Tal Law, which provided a near-blanket exemption of yeshiva students from military or national service, with legislation instituting universal conscription.

The petition was submitted this past summer by The Movement for Quality of Government in Israel following the expiration of the Tal Law. For more than a decade, the law allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to defer service in the IDF until the age of 28, when they were considered by the military too old to serve.

According to the recruitment program announced Monday and approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, about 14,000 young men born in 1994 and 1995 would be enlisted next summer for three full years of service. However, about 40,000 ultra-Orthodox men, ages 20 to 30 (and thus falling in the recruitment bracket), would not be called up retrospectively — barring any new legislation to the contrary.

“The arrangement formulated by the IDF focuses on the present and future, not amending the past,” read the state’s official statement, noting a definitive solution to the problem would have to first pass legislative channels.

The Kadima party entered the governing coalition with the Likud in May in order to legislate a new universal draft law that would ensure yeshiva students shared the burden of military service. However, disagreements over the bill shattered the coalition, with Kadima exiting in July, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for sabotaging the reform.

The High Court of Justice will hold a hearing on the issue on Thursday.

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