Barak toughens yeshiva draft exemptions


Israel’s defense minister clashed with fervently Orthodox lawmakers over draft exemptions for yeshiva students.

Sources close to Ehud Barak said Thursday that he had refused to grant 64 new yeshivot the right to submit lists of full-time students who would be granted exemptions from mandatory military service.

Barak’s decision spells conscription orders for some 1,000 fervently Orthodox students who had assumed they would be among the tens of thousands who avoid the draft each year on religious grounds.

According to media reports, Barak balked at expanding the number of those eligible for exemptions.

Members of the United Torah Judaism and Shas factions pledged to fight Barak in the Knesset, which has enacted a series of laws regarding the “status quo” of the Orthodox and military service.

Shas, which like Barak’s Labor Party is a major partner in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government, also has the option of threatening to quit the coalition.

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