Israeli Cabinet votes to end military exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem.

Story highlights

  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have been exempt from military service
  • Arrangements have prompted a growing sense of resentment and anger among other Israelis
  • The ultra-religious Haredim make up about 10% of the country
  • The full parliament has yet to consider the legislation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet has approved legislation that could end the exemption ultra-Orthodox Jews get on military service.

The bill now goes to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, for consideration, the prime minister's office said Sunday.

"We will enact this change gradually while considering the special needs of the ultra-Orthodox population," Netanyahu said. "Our objective is two-fold: integrating young ultra-Orthodox into IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and national service and, no less important, integrating them into the labor force."

Read: Israeli PM promises military draft reform

The bill would require the enlistment of the ultra-religious Haredim in the army. All other Jews in Israel are required to serve.

The Haredim, who make up about 10% of the country according to government figures, are the fastest-growing segment of the population and constitute a powerful voting bloc.

They have used political clout to maintain government subsidies for working-age men to study the Torah full time and protect the ability for ultra-Orthodox Israelis to win easy exemptions from compulsory military service.

But the latest ruling government coalition formed this year excludes ultra-religious parties, almost always part of such coalitions in Israel.

The exclusion comes amid a growing sense of resentment and anger among other Israelis over the exemptions.