The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a bill that would reverse the currently existing draft exemption for, among others, ultra-Orthodox men. The new bill, approved by a vote of 14-0 with four abstentions, would limit the number of men [Reuters report] who are exempted from being drafted every year. Since its foundation, Israel exempted ultra-Orthodox men studying in seminaries, religious women and Arab citizens of Israel from military service. However, the new bill reduces the number of people who can be exempted to 1,800 outstanding seminary students per year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] released a statement [press release] explaining the rationale behind the new bill:
Today, after 65 years, we are submitting for Cabinet approval the outline on increasing equality in sharing the burden. We will enact this change gradually while considering the special needs of the ultra-orthodox population. Our objective is two-fold: Integrating young ultra-orthodox into IDF and national service and, no less important, integrating them into the labor force.The new bill allows a four-year interim period for young ultra-Orthodox to enlist. The recent approval was criticized by religious leaders who accused the government of unfairly persecuting them. The new bill will be presented to parliament for approval.
Israel's military service law demands all Israeli citizens be drafted at age 18. The country's new government that took office in March is the first one in almost 20 years without any ultra-Orthodox parties. Earlier this week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled that the new bill was legal [Jerusalem Post report], reasoning that its underlying purpose was to create greater equality in military service. Although Weinstein found some problematic issues with the new bill, the proposed law will not be fully implemented until 2017, so he decided to await further information.