IDF Charedi exemptions row spills on to Jerusalem streets

Police officers were caught on camera attacking protesters and Police Commissioner Ronny Alsheikh said he “felt sick” seeing the footage


The ruling last week by the High Court in Jerusalem on the law regulating the exemptions of Haredi yeshiva students from military service prompted violent clashes on the streets of Israel over the weekend, while also adding impetus to a bold move on changing the country's legal landscape.

The court ruled eight-to-one that the current law is unconstitutional since it enshrines inequality between Israelis who are drafted to the IDF and those who are allowed to continue studying yeshivas indefinitely. It gave the Knesset 12 months to amend its legislation.

The Charedi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, which are both coalition partners, have demanded that the new law will include an overriding clause, which will make it immune to further intervention by the High Court. But if a legal revolution proposed last Thursday by the leaders of the Jewish Home Party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, goes ahead, there may be no need of overriding clauses.

According the Jewish Home proposal, the Knesset will pass a new “Basic Law of Legislation” which will “restore the balance” of separation of powers in Israel. It would essentially allow the government to create “High-Court-proof” legislation. Israel lacks a formal written constitution but “basic laws” have special status and the new basic law would create a section of Israeli legislation immune to judicial review.

It is unclear at this point whether this law has sufficient support to pass a Knesset vote. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the strictly Orthodox parties are likely to support it, but Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, while critical of High Court “interventionism”, has said that he supports drafting yeshiva students. Another coalition partner, centrist Kulanu, is opposed to legislation limiting the power of the High Court.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the streets of Jerusalem were the scenes of clashes between police and  strictly Orthodox protestors. The followers of the Toldot Avraham Yitzhak Hassidic sect, protested the arrest of the son of their Rabbi who had refused to attend a summons by the IDF.

Police officers were filmed attacking protestors, who called them “Nazis”. Police Commissioner Ronny Alsheikh said on Monday morning that he had “felt sick” seeing the footage and that “if any officer lost control, he will have to account for his actions”.

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