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Updated Jun 25, 2024, 8:49am EDT
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

Why Israel’s ultra-Orthodox conscription ruling may lead to collapse of Netanyahu’s government

Insights from The Washington Post, Israel Democracy Institute, Haaretz, and Rane

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Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
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Israel’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that ultra-Orthodox Jewish students must immediately be conscripted into the military, a decision that could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s already-fragile governing coalition, which relies on two ultra-Orthodox parties who oppose enlistment.

The court said that in the absence of a law distinguishing between Jewish seminary students and other draftees, Israel’s compulsory service laws must also apply to the ultra-Orthodox.

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Military service is mandatory for most Israelis once they turn 18, but ultra-Orthodox Jews have been largely exempt.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Dilemmas for ultra-Orthodox Jews

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Israel Democracy Institute, Haaretz

The ultra-Orthodox now face a dilemma, the vice president of The Jewish People Policy Institute told The Washington Post: If their political representatives force the collapse of Netanyahu’s coalition in protest, new elections risk bringing into power parties that are even less accommodating. 70% of Israeli Jews want to end blanket exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, according to the Israel Democracy Institute — making a Knesset majority all but assured for parties that promise no return to the old system, while consigning ultra-Orthodox parties to a “long and unaccustomed period in opposition,” a columnist argued in Haaretz.

Broadening military service is now seen as a ‘necessity’

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Sources:  
The Jerusalem Post, Reuters, Rane

Ultra-Orthodox exemption from military service has long been a source of controversy in Israel, centering on the question of equal burden-sharing, but months into the country’s war in Gaza, this is “no longer just a value but a necessity,” the vice president of The Jewish People Policy Institute argued in The Jerusalem Post in February — a sentiment echoed in the Supreme Court’s own ruling, which said that “at the height of a difficult war, the burden of inequality is even more acute.” But practical concerns about Israel’s limited manpower may be overblown, a Middle East expert argued in Rane, for reasons including that emerging military technologies are increasingly automated.

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