Will Israel end the military conscription exemption for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jews) before the next general election?
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Israel has one of the toughest set of rules around military conscription of any country in the world. Most Jewish citizens are eligible for national service, with men serving a minimum of 2 years 8 months and women serving a minimum of 2 years.

Since the founding of Israel, there has been an exemption for ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews on the basis that young, conscription aged members of the community are devoted full time to studying the Torah. The Haredi communities have argued that their religious study is equivalent to military service - they are protecting their fellow citizens spiritually while members of the IDF are protecting them physically.

The exemption has become increasingly controversial over the past few years, especially as the Haredi population has increased. The exemption originally only applied to a few hundred young men, but Haredi Jews now make up over 10% of Israel's population.

Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed a package of measures around conscription. This includes extending the length of conscription and raising the reservist age and it also includes ending the Haredi exemption:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/26/plan-end-ultra-orthodox-students-military-exemption-row-israel

Netanyahu has warned that failing to pass this law will threaten the stability of the coalition government. His coalition is already unsteady, and there is speculation that he could lose his job in the near future (predict that here - /SimonGrayson/when-will-benjamin-netanyahu-be-rep) so this isn't an idle threat!

Will the government pass legislation ending the Haredi/Yeshiva exemption before the next election? Or will the exemptions be weakened/ended by the courts or by any other mechanism?

Any reduction in this exemption will count for the purposes of the market (even if it's a watered down compromise) so long as it is enacted as law or enforced by the courts.


Update 29th March - there are a few contradictory messages coming out from different politicians in Israel so there is a chance that this market will end up being a bit subjective. Please be aware of that before you trade and please read the comments below for context.

I will endeavour to resolve the market in good faith to the spirit of the question and resolve to YES if either of these things happen:

  • Netenyahu succeeds in passing legislation which is fundamentally the same as the proposed legislation

  • The conscription exemptions are removed or significantly reduced by some other method such as the courts

I don’t believe that the latest Supreme Court ruling meets this criteria, it recognises that the exemption is still in place and blocks funding as a result.

I will not be trading on this market myself.

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The Supreme Court has ruled that the military exemption is incompatible with government subsidies for religious students:

https://www.ft.com/content/218f6f39-68e4-4473-84f1-84c1b61116ce

However, their ruling blocks those subsidies rather than enforcing conscription.

Reading through the coverage of this decision, it looks like they are recognising that the exemption is still in place. A pro-conscription source in the government still believes that legislation is needed to change things:

However, Benny Gantz, a former general who joined Netanyahu’s coalition in a unity government after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, praised the court’s decision, and urged the government to pass a law conscripting the Haredim.

“The High Court ruled the obvious today. The time has come for the government to do the obvious,” he said.

So this court ruling alone is not sufficient to resolve this market.

@traders

Regarding the conversation with @Shump below, I'm clarifying the question to make it clear that the market will resolve to YES if any of the following things happen:

  • The courts weaken or end the exemptions (Shump has suggested that this is a foregone conclusion if the government take no action). This won't count as having happened yet if the courts delay this or set another date by which the government have to act - only if they say that the changes are coming into force without further delay.

  • The government pass legislation which weakens or ends the exemptions.

  • The exemptions are ended through other means (eg. government declaration, military overreach, etc)

If you feel that this is overly generous to the YES position and you would therefore like to sell your NO position at a loss, send me a message and I will happily reimburse you for the amount you've lost by selling your position.

@SimonGrayson The problem is: It seems like the court will just start by saying Yeshivas will no longer get (as much? tbd) financial funding from the gov. That is very different than anyone actually getting drafted so pay close attention. It is for reasons like these that I'm not betting on this market, I don't think everyone here is deep enough in the weeds and I'd prob end up contesting the resolution...

@FergusArgyll You were right - that’s exactly what the court ruling seems to have said!

@SimonGrayson The description and the title don't match. If the government takes no action, the supreme court will make the army start recruiting Ultra-Orthodox men. In fact, any law is likely to be a way to either prolong the current situation or punt the decision. I'd recommend making the title clearly about making a law that includes recruiting Ultra-Orthodox men.

@Shump Have I misunderstood what's going on here?

I thought that Netanyahu was proposing a law which would mean that some ultra-Orthodox men would be recruited. If the supreme court is poised to end the exemption without the government taking any action, why would Netanyahu need to do that?

Do you have any info about the supreme court's position here?

My question was originally meant to be about whether Netanyahu's proposal to limit/end exemption would pass, but it sounds like you're saying that the exemption would come to an end even without his actions?

@SimonGrayson So what happened is that more than a decade ago, the supreme court decided that the law that allowed the Haredis to dodge the draft is unconstitutional. The government must thus find some sort of arrangement for recruiting Haredis that will not get struck down. Since then, the government has been dragging feet (except during a short period in which Lapid did start recruiting Haredis) and asking for every extension possible. The supreme's court's patience has run out and they said the will instruct the state to start recruiting on April 1st. What Netanyahu is trying to do is avoid that. The Haredis, his coalition partners, see recruitment as an existential threat. So they're trying to make some kind of bogus law that will claim to recruit Haredis while not doing so, and kick the can further down the road until the time the supreme court will also strike down this law. However, Netanyahu's moderate partners don't want that.

You can just chance the title to whether Israel's government will make a law on the subject by the deadline and that's pretty much it.

@SimonGrayson we need a ruling here. The supreme court issued an edict to start recruiting Ultra orthodox on April 1st. I assume this doesn't resolve because of the description, but best update the title before someone gets confused

@Shump Thanks for the info.

And apologies for the delay, I've been trying to read up on this. I think I've got an understanding now - a few politicians have been misrepresenting the situation and I made the mistake of taking what they were saying at face value!

In the spirit of the question, I think I have to resolve to YES even it's done through the courts. If you think that's an inevitability, this question might not have as much value as I thought it would!

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@SimonGrayson well let's wait a few days until things actually happen, but in this case it does seem like it will resolve YES. The supreme court rejected the government's request for an extension so it's bound to happen, at least on paper. I'd be curious to see what end up happening on the ground though, and how many Ultra-Orthodox end up being recruited.

I do think there is a lot of value to questions around this situation, and it's not obvious that Ultra Orthodox will actually start being recruited. It's just a topic that's tricky to operationalize.

@SimonGrayson Just to be clear, any quotas for Haredim would resolve yes?

Even if most yeshiva students still don't have to serve?

@FergusArgyll Yes - that would resolve to YES.

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