Hardline protests against decision to recruit settlers into the Israeli army

JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men clashed with Israeli police in central Jerusalem on Sunday during a protest against Supreme Court order To begin recruiting for military service.

Last week’s historic decision ordering the government to begin recruiting religiously ultra-Orthodox men could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition as Labor’s chances of winning the election grow. He wages war in Gaza.

Tens of thousands of men gathered in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood to protest the order. But after nightfall, the crowd made its way toward central Jerusalem and turned violent.

Israeli police said protesters threw rocks and attacked the car of an extremist government minister, pelting it with rocks. Water cannons filled with skunk-scented water and police on horseback were used to disperse the crowd. But the demonstration was not yet under control late Sunday.

Military service is mandatory for most Jewish men and women in Israel. But politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have secured exemptions for their followers to skip military service and study at yeshivas instead.

This long-standing arrangement has generated resentment among the general public, a feeling that has grown stronger during the eight-month war against Hamas. More than 600 soldiers have been killed in the fighting, and tens of thousands of reservists have been activated, upending their careers, businesses and lives.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and their followers say that forcing their men to serve in the army would destroy their way of life to which they have been accustomed for generations. Earlier on Sunday, thousands of men gathered in a public square and joined a mass prayer. Many of them carried signs criticizing the government, with one saying, “Not even a single man should be conscripted.”

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The ultra-Orthodox parties are key members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and could force new elections if they decide to leave the government in protest.

Party leaders have not announced whether they will leave the government. Doing so may be risky, given the decline in popularity for Netanyahu’s coalition since the October 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war.


Follow AP’s war coverage on https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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