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Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled unanimously that the military must begin drafting ultra-Orthodox men for compulsory service, a landmark decision that could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition as Israel continues to wage war in Gaza.

The historic ruling effectively puts an end to a decades-old system that granted ultra-Orthodox men broad exemptions from military service while maintaining mandatory enlistment for the country’s secular Jewish majority. The arrangement, deemed discriminatory by critics, has created a deep chasm in Israel’s Jewish majority over who should shoulder the burden of protecting the country.

The court struck down a law that codified exemptions in 2017, but repeated court extensions and government delaying tactics over a replacement dragged out a resolution for years. The court ruled that in the absence of a law, Israel’s compulsory military service applies to the ultra-Orthodox like any other citizen.

Under longstanding arrangements, ultra-Orthodox men have been exempt from the draft, which is compulsory for most Jewish men and women, who serve three and two years respectively as well as reserve duty until around age 40.

These exemptions have long been a source of anger among the secular public, a divide that has widened during the eight-month-old war, as the military has called up tens of thousands of soldiers and says it needs all the manpower it can get. Over 600 soldiers have been killed since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties, key partners in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, oppose any change to the current system. If the exemptions are ended, they could bolt the coalition, causing the government to collapse and likely leading to new elections at a time when its popularity has dropped.

In the current environment, Netanyahu could have a hard time delaying the matter any further or passing laws to restore the exemptions. During arguments, government lawyers told the court that forcing ultra-Orthodox men to enlist would “tear Israeli society apart.”

A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party criticized the ruling, saying a bill in parliament backed by the Israeli leader would address the draft issue. Critics say it falls short of Israel’s wartime needs.

“The real solution to the draft problem is not a Supreme Court ruling,” the statement said.

In its ruling, the court found that the state was carrying out “invalid selective enforcement, which represents a serious violation of the rule of law, and the principle according to which all individuals are equal before the law.”

It did not say how many ultra-Orthodox should be drafted, but the military has said it is capable of enlisting 3,000 this year.

Some 66,000 ultra-Orthodox men are now eligible for enlistment, according to Shuki Friedman, an expert on religion and state affairs and the vice-president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank.

The ruling of Israel’s highest court must be followed, and the military is expected to begin doing so once it forms a plan for how to draft thousands of members of a population that’s deeply opposed to service, and which follows a cloistered and modest lifestyle the military may not be immediately prepared to accommodate. The army had no immediate comment.



The Supreme Court on Monday jumped into the fight over transgender rights, agreeing to hear an appeal from the Biden administration seeking to block state bans on gender-affirming care.

The justices’ action comes as Republican-led states have enacted a variety of restrictions on health care for transgender people, school sports participation, bathroom usage and drag shows. The administration and Democratic-led states have extended protections for transgender people, including a new federal regulation that seeks to protect transgender students.

The case before the high court involves a law in Tennessee that restrict puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender minors. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati allowed laws in Tennessee and Kentucky to take effect after they had been blocked by lower courts. (The high court did not act on a separate appeal from Kentucky.)

“Without this Court’s prompt intervention, transgender youth and their families will remain in limbo, uncertain of whether and where they can access needed medical care,” lawyers for the transgender teens in Tennessee told the justices.

Actor Elliot Page, the Oscar-nominated star of “Juno,” “Inception” and “The Umbrella Academy,” was among 57 transgender people who joined a legal filing in support of Supreme Court review.

Arguments will take place in the fall. Last month, South Carolina became the 25th state to adopt a law restricting or banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, even though such treatments have been available in the United States for more than a decade and are endorsed by major medical associations.

Most of the state restrictions face lawsuits. The justices had previously allowed Idaho to generally enforce its restrictions, after they had been blocked by lower courts.

At least 24 states have laws barring transgender women and girls from competing in certain women’s or girls’ sports competitions. At least 11 states have adopted laws barring transgender girls and women from girls’ and women’s bathrooms at public schools, and in some cases other government facilities.



The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a settlement between Western states over the management of one of North America’s longest rivers.

The 5-4 decision rebuffs an agreement that had come recommended by a federal judge overseeing the case over how New Mexico, Texas and Colorado must share water from the Rio Grande. The high court found that the federal government still had claims about New Mexico’s water use that the settlement would not resolve.

U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Melloy had called the proposal a fair and reasonable way to resolve the conflict between Texas and New Mexico that would be consistent with a decadeslong water-sharing agreement between the two states as well as Colorado.

The federal government, though, lodged several objections, including that the proposal did not mandate specific water capture or use limitations within New Mexico.

New Mexico officials have said implementing the settlement would require reducing the use of Rio Grande water through a combination of efforts that range from paying farmers to leave their fields barren to making infrastructure improvements. Some New Mexico lawmakers have voiced concerns, but the attorney general who led the state’s negotiations had called the agreement a victory.

Farmers in southern New Mexico have had to rely more heavily on groundwater wells over the last two decades as drought and climate change resulted in reduced flows and less water in reservoirs along the Rio Grande. Texas sued over the groundwater pumping, claiming the practice was cutting into the amount of water that was ultimately delivered as part of the interstate compact.

The proposed settlement would recognize several measurements to ensure New Mexico delivers what’s owed to Texas. New Mexico, meanwhile, agreed to drop its challenges against Texas in exchange for clarifying how water will be accounted for as it flows downstream. The agreement also outlined transfers if not enough or too much water ended up in Texas.

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