Israeli Minister: High Court Ruling on ultra-Orthodox Military Service Is a Bid to Topple Government

'The time has come to enact a law that will forbid the High Court from striking down laws,' Yaakov Litzman said, as ultra-Orthodox legislators meet to discuss the nixing of the law exempting Haredim from the draft

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman at an event at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, September 4, 2017.
Moti Milrod

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Wednesday the High Court of Justice struck down the law exempting yeshiva students from military service in order to topple the government.

Two ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, parties are members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition: United Torah Judaism and Shas. Litzman, of UTJ, told Army Radio that this wasn’t the first time the court had political intentions.

“They do through the High Court what they can’t do through the coalition,” he added in an interview with Haredi radio station Kol Barama. “The time has come to enact a law that will forbid the High Court from striking down laws.” As he put it, “We will have no problem passing that.”

Other Knesset members from United Torah Judaism joined the outcry over the court ruling. Shas and United Torah Judaism met Wednesday for what they called an emergency meeting after the decision. "Either we dissolve teh Knesset and give the keys to the High Court or we bring the power back to the Knesset," Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Dery said at the meeting."We're working for the High Court justices. This isn't possible. Conversion, kashrut, conscription: The ways of government have changed."

“The High Court has no restraints; it will strike as long as it doesn’t possess fully what it lusts after, first and foremost against the Haredim,” Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush told Army Radio, adding that “the people did not elect the Supreme Court. It’s like a military coup.”

Haredi dailies linked to the ultra-Orthodox parties have also declared war on the High Court. Yated Ne’eman took the lead, dedicating its entire front page to the decision. Its headline read: “The High Court of Justice against the Torah world.” The newspaper also declared: “Judicial dictatorship: Draft law forcefully struck down by Supreme Court.”

The paper’s editor, Israel Friedman, wrote in the editorial that “the political system understands that two laws need to be enacted: a new law that will arrange the status of yeshiva students once and for all, and no less important, a law that will put the High Court in its proper place.” He added: “After the godless left lost power, liberal terror cannot continue to rule the country by remote control.”

The Hamodia newspaper, which is aligned with Gur Hasidic movement, was more moderate. It called the move “another aggressive judicial intervention against the powers of the legislative authority.” As the paper put it, “High Court judges canceled a law that enshrines the deferment of the draft of those whose contribution is their faith.”

The newspaper Hapeles declared “an uncompromising war” in its main headline. The paper is identified with the so-called Jerusalem faction, which has taken a more extremist line against drafting yeshiva students and comprises the internal opposition to the main Lithuanian sect.

“The era of illusions is over, the parliamentary legislative agreements failed and will fail,” Hapeles wrote. “The High Court of Justice declared: There is no legal solution without an equally shared burden.”

The High Court on Tuesday struck down the law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service while they are studying in yeshiva. The ruling is due to take effect within a year.

The justices examined the data on the draft, concluding that the rate of yeshiva students enlisting or doing civilian national service was lower in years when the current legal arrangement for exemptions was in force. The number of Haredi yeshiva students enlisting was extremely small and did not show any significant change, as required by the law, the justices said.

Based on this information, Supreme Court President Miriam Noar cited an insufficient match between the new draft arrangement and the reduction of inequality in sharing the burden of military service. She said the data strengthened the conclusion that the new draft arrangement had failed.