Conflict & Justice

Israel: cabinet approves new draft law for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men


Israeli soldiers patrol the empty streets of Hebron on June 26, 2002, in the West Bank.


Quique Kierszenbaum

Israel’s cabinet has approved changes to Israel’s military draft law that would increase the number of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men required to participate in the military or other forms of national service.

Israel requires that all Israeli citizens, including women, be drafted into two or three years of military service at age 18. About 8,000 ultra-Orthodox men turn 18 each year, but they are currently exempt from the draft, although they may volunteer.

“Today, after 65 years, we are submitting for cabinet approval the outline on increasing equality in sharing the burden,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the vote, Bloomberg News reported. “Our objective is twofold: integrating young ultra-Orthodox into military and national service, and no less important, integrating them into the labor market.”

The updated law would require ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military or do community service at age 18, with exemptions given to only 1,800 Torah scholars a year, Israel Today reported. Ultra-Orthodox men would be permitted to delay service, but only until age 21. Ultra-Orthodox women can still opt out of from service.

The cabinet also approved extending the service of other Jewish women from 24 to 28 months.

The changes must be approved by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, before they become law.

If the measure passes, as expected, there will be a four-year adjustment period before the changes go into effect.

Some members of the government criticized the bill for not requiring community service for Israeli Arabs, who are exempted from military duty for security reasons, Bloomberg News reported.