JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's defense minister has instructed the military to start drafting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men as it does other Israelis, setting up a potential clash over an issue that has divided the country for decades.
Ehud Barak gave defense officials a month to craft a plan to put it into practice, trying to buy time in a last-ditch effort to find an agreed solution. His order came just hours before the expiration of a law that has granted tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews exemptions from military duty and followed a Supreme Court ruling against extending that arrangement.
Some ultra-Orthodox activists vowed immediately after the decision that members of their community would go to jail rather than cut short their religious studies to serve, while others sounded skeptical that Barak would enforce the law. Defense officials say privately that the military is not prepared to immediately absorb tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)