JERUSALEM (AP) — In an step that could intensify a major rift among Israelis, the defense minister on Tuesday ordered the army to prepare for a universal draft of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.
Many in the insular and rapidly growing community say they would rather go to jail than comply with an end to the decades-long draft exemptions that have caused increasing outrage in the country.
Ehud Barak gave defense officials a month to craft a plan to put the new draft procedure into practice, trying to buy time in a last-ditch effort to find an agreed solution. His order came just hours before the expiration of a law that has granted tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from military duty and followed a Supreme Court ruling against extending that arrangement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 2 TV Tuesday night that the army would begin widening its list of recruits immediately.