Israeli Supreme Court Rules Against Government Funding of Religious Schools Defying Enlistment, Dealing Blow to Netanyahu

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Israeli Supreme Court Orders Government to Halt Funding for Religious Schools Defying Military Service, Dealing Blow to Netanyahu Coalition

The Israeli Supreme Court delivered a significant blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition on Thursday, instructing the government to cease funding religious schools whose students evade the country’s compulsory military conscription.

Netanyahu’s coalition relies heavily on two Ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, for support. However, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz of the National Unity Party, who are part of the wartime cabinet, have strongly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of the issue of Ultra-Orthodox conscription.

Ariyeh Deri, leader of the Shas party, condemned the court’s decision, accusing the judges of threatening the existence of the Jewish people. He expressed concern that the ruling could incite internal conflict within Israeli society.

The exemption of young men studying in yeshivas from mandatory military service has been a longstanding practice in Israel, effectively exempting all Ultra-Orthodox Israelis. However, the Supreme Court has consistently viewed this exemption as inequitable since it has not been codified into law.

Netanyahu recently attempted to delay the Supreme Court’s deadline for passing legislation to formalize the exemption. However, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal for the government to fund yeshivas while simultaneously exempting their students from conscription.

As of April 1, the government will be prohibited from transferring funds to yeshivas whose students do not receive legitimate deferments, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Yitzhak Goldknopf, leader of the United Torah Judaism party, denounced the decision as a disgrace and an affront to the essence of Judaism. He emphasized the importance of religious study to Israel’s identity and existence.

For Ultra-Orthodox Jews, religious study is integral to the preservation of Judaism and is considered as crucial to Israel’s defense as military service.

Benny Gantz remarked that the court’s ruling merely affirmed the obvious and called for decisive action from the government in response to the decision.

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