Top Israeli officer’s visit to ultra-Orthodox bastion canceled over draft disputeSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 12/12/2012 6:41 pm in World / 1 comment
JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 — An ultra-Orthodox city in central Israel on Tuesday called off plans to host a senior army officer, fearing that her visit could spark a protest against efforts to draft its residents for military service.
Maj. Gen. Orna Barbibai, who heads the army’s Personnel Directorate, was scheduled to visit Bnei Brak, a center of Orthodox Judaism east of Tel Aviv, where she was to meet local leaders and tour rabbinical schools to encourage the voluntary enlistment of their students, the Israel Hayom daily reported.
The cancellation came on the heels of a controversial government decision on Sunday to draft 1,300 ultra-Orthodox students to national or civilian service instead of military service, a move that prompted opposition parties to accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of betraying public interest.
In February, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law that has granted tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from mandatory military duty, as unconstitutional and discriminatory. Since its expiration in August, the government has yet to pass alternative legislation to regularize a religious draft and resolve an issue that has divided the country for decades.