JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Cabinet has approved a plan that would gradually end a contentious system that has granted automatic draft exemptions to Jewish ultra-Orthodox seminary students.

Under a longstanding system, thousands of young men are allowed to skip compulsory military service to pursue religious studies. This has caused widespread resentment among secular Jewish Israelis.

The new system, which needs parliamentary approval, would reduce the number of exemptions and require ultra-Orthodox men to register for service. It would go into effect in three years.

The draft was a central issue in January elections and propelled Yesh Atid, the secular rights party behind the new regulations, into the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the law will be implemented "gradually."

Ultra-Orthodox religious leaders condemned the decision, charging it would infringe on their lifestyle.

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