Israeli Supreme Court mandates military service for ultra-orthodox, challenging Netanyahu’s coalition

Military service is mandatory for most Israelis, with men typically serving for 32 months and women for 24 months.

In a landmark decision, Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to draft ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, delivering a significant setback to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ruling coalition. This ruling strikes at the heart of a longstanding and contentious issue in Israeli society and politics.

The court’s decision challenges a key pillar of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which relies heavily on the support of ultra-Orthodox parties. These parties have long advocated for exemptions from military service for their constituents, allowing them to pursue religious studies instead.

Military service is mandatory for most Israelis, with men typically serving for 32 months and women for 24 months. However, ultra-Orthodox Jews have historically been granted exemptions, a practice that has caused resentment among other segments of Israeli society who view it as unfair.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to create significant political tension within Netanyahu’s coalition. Ultra-Orthodox parties consider military service exemptions a non-negotiable condition for their political support, and this decision directly threatens that arrangement.

Critics of the exemptions argue that they create an unfair burden on other Israelis and hinder the integration of the ultra-Orthodox community into broader Israeli society and the workforce. Supporters, however, contend that the exemptions are necessary to preserve religious traditions and study.

This ruling sets the stage for a potential showdown between the judiciary and the government. It remains to be seen how Netanyahu’s administration will respond to this challenge, given the potential for political instability if ultra-Orthodox parties withdraw their support in protest.

The decision also raises questions about the implementation of such a draft, considering the cultural and religious sensitivities involved. The government will need to navigate these complexities while adhering to the court’s ruling.

As Israel grapples with this pivotal change, the coming weeks are likely to see intense political manoeuvring and public debate over the role of the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society and the military.