In a 6-3 vote, High Court judges accepted Tuesday evening a contentious petition against the Draft Deferral Law for yeshiva students, saying it would expire this August and would not be renewed.
In the written opinions accompanying the ruling, substantial differences of opinion were expressed between outgoing High Court President Dorit Beinisch, who propounds judicial activism, and the incoming president, Asher Grunis, who sought to reject the petition on the grounds the issue is not judicial at all. "The court would have done well not to review this issue at all, and to leave it in the public sphere, beyond the court's jurisdiction," Grunis wrote.
Also in the majority opinion were Judges Naor, Rubinstein, Hayot, Mecler and Hendel. In the minority Grunis was joined by Vice President Eliezer Rivlin and Judge Edna Arbel, who held the petitions should be left unsettled.
The law was passed in July 2002 and five years later was granted another five-year extension. Following the petitions filed by Reform and left-wing organizations, a discussion was held three years ago, where the judges expressed their opposition to the law's implementation, but delayed rendering a decision.
During this week's decision, Grunis cited an earlier opinion he issued on the matter. "When the majority acts through democratic means and accepts a law that gives preference to a minority, there is no reason for the court to turn into the patron of the majority," he wrote.
"The fact that this court dealt again and again with the issue of chareidi military service, without any progress being made as a result of the court's ruling, has added little to the High Court's standing," Judge Grunis added.
"It seems to me that few people in the country," wrote Grunis, "believe that there will really be a large-scale enlistment of chareidi yeshiva students into the IDF. If indeed the new law is not accepted and a new petition is filed in which the government, including the Defense Minister, is required to impose enlistment, would a ruling on the petition bring about the yearned-for enlistment? It would appear that the answer is obvious."
The Knesset continued its deliberations on the law which was due for renewal late in the summer. Even before the ruling of the High Court, the prime minister said that he did not intend to just renew the law as it stands. Speaking in the Knesset, Minister Benny Begin said, "We must respect people who are not like us. We cannot force them. The reality does not allow a legal compulsion at this time. Each group goes its own way." He said that there is time to carefully consider a new law that meets the criticisms of the High Court.
Speaking in the Knesset in reaction to the ruling of the High Court, Rabbi Moshe Gafni, "I once appeared with the previous head of the High Court, Professor Aharon Barak, who said to me, `You need the High Court because you are not always in the [governing] Coalition and you need someone to protect your rights.' I answered that we have never gotten, as a community, any help whatsoever, not even once, from the High Court, since the founding of the State. We get nothing today and will get nothing in the future.
"Let no one be under the illusion that there is a community that does not understand what is going on. With all due respect, when one talks of the halls of justice, honesty and equality, and that one has to worry about everyone. You should know, we will get nothing. The High Court is against the chareidi community in everything, every subject, in education, in social relief, in health, in yeshivas — in everything. The worst thing is they wrap it all in legal terms to give the impression that they are helping us. We can do without your honey and your sting."