Israeli official vows to end draft exemptions

JERUSALEM — Israel’s new hawkish bloc will do away with a contentious system of draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox men if it forms a new government, Israel’s deputy foreign minister pledged Wednesday.

If the vow is implemented, it would put the recently formed bloc on a potential collision course with a likely coalition partner linked to ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

The issue of the draft exemptions has become a major source of friction in Israel, and the outgoing government failed to meet a Supreme Court order to abolish the system. Heading into elections in January, the issue is now caught in legal limbo.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, a member of the secular Yisrael Beitenu Party, said the government has failed to find a new formula thus far for the draft because of objections by the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. Both Shas and Yisrael Beitenu are key members in the current Israeli government.

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This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party agreed to join forces with Yisrael Beitenu and run as a joint list in the upcoming election. The alliance is expected to be the biggest single bloc in Parliament and to dominate the next coalition government.

Ayalon said the partnership with Likud has changed the rules of the game and that if Shas wants to be part of the next government, it has to agree ahead of time to universal drafting and electoral reform in Israel.

Otherwise, ‘‘they won’t be part of the government,’’ Ayalon told the Associated Press.

In a country where military service is compulsory for all Jewish males except the ultra-Orthodox, the draft exemptions have created widespread resentment toward the religious.

Associated Press