Just this week, the IDF issued its first draft notices to 15,000 ultra-Orthodox youth (ages 17-19). Although their enlistment is not immediate, it marks the first time that the ultra-Orthodox community has been included in standard draft procedures.

Over the past year, we have been keeping our eyes on the expiration of the Tal Law, which exempted ultra-Orthodox Jews from serving in the IDF. In February, we considered the decision by the Supreme Court that declared the Tal Law unconstitutional. In May Kadima joined the governing coalition with the hope of advancing army integration, only to leave the government after realizing the improbability of achieving this goal. The incorporation of Haredi Jews and Arabs into the armed forces is one of the largest and most divisive social questions in Israeli political discourse. Prime Minister Netanyahu even disbanded the draft committee that was formed to plan incorporation because the committee failed to devise a workable solution. However, the inability of Israeli lawmakers to come up with political solutions has not stalled the IDF from fulfilling its legal obligation, as declared by the Court.

The move to begin enlisting ultra-Orthodox youth is especially interesting in light of the Prime Minister’s call for early elections, as it will bring the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF back to the forefront of the political landscape. In an effort to minimize the electoral impact and to dodge political criticism, the Israeli government is delaying the inclusion of older ultra-orthodox Jews (ages 20-26) until after the election. It is unclear whether the ultra-Orthodox population will mobilize for the election to fight against their enlistment to a greater or lesser degree than those arguing for equal military service. Keep checking RACblog for updates as we follow this story and the election.

Image courtesy of Reuters/Baz Ratner