The Jerusalem Post
Yeshiva students must enlist after court deadline expires
State asks for six-month extension to exemption
A law that allowed the Defense Ministry to perpetually defer enlistment for haredi yeshiva students technically expired on Monday, although the state has now asked for a six-month extension to pass a new law.
As of midnight on Monday, the defense minister is no longer able to grant military service deferrals to ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students after the deadline, given by the High Court of Justice in February to pass a new law, ran out.
Technically, the state and the Defense Ministry are now obligated to draft yeshiva students who turn 18 from Tuesday, although this will surely not happen.
On Monday, the state requested another six-month extension from the court to give the government time to pass a new law to regulate the standing of yeshiva students who seek to defer their enlistment until they are over the maximum age of military service.
This is the state’s 10th request for an extension to the severely complex and divisive issue since the High Court ruled in 2017 that blanket deferrals from enlistment were discriminatory and illegal.
The court has now given the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, the primary petitioner in the case, until Thursday to respond to the government’s request for an extension.
The organization has said it unequivocally opposes any extension.
As on previous occasions, however, it is unlikely the court will create a situation in which all haredi men of military age are immediately liable to the draft, due to the severe societal turmoil this would cause.
The vast majority of them do not perform military or national service, and are able to defer their service every year for one year while they are of military age as long as they are studying in approved yeshivas.
The court has now ruled on three separate occasions, the last being in September 2017, that blanket deferrals without any serious effort by the government to increase the numbers of haredi men in military or national service is discriminatory and illegal.
During the 2015-2018 Netanyahu-led government, then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman instructed a special committee in the ministry to draw up legislation to incrementally increase enlistment, using economic sanctions against yeshivas that do not fill quotas as an incentive to meet enlistment targets.
The government intends to revive that legislation but amend it to also reduce the age of military service to just 21.
Critics of this proposal argue it will reduce the motivation of haredim to enlist since they can study in yeshiva for three years, as many do, and then join the workforce or seek higher education without enlisting.