An Israeli government committee has approved a proposal that would reform Israel's military draft and enlist thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to military service.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have for years been exempt from military service, which is compulsory for Jewish Israelis. The exemptions have bred resentment among many Israelis and became a central issue in January elections.

Under the proposal, all 17-year-old Jewish males will have to register with the military, although seminary students will be allowed to delay their enlistment until the age of 21. The system also offers financial incentives to seminaries whose students cooperate with the law and would punish those whose students do not comply.

The proposal was backed by the committee on Wednesday. It still has to be approved by the Cabinet and parliament before becoming law.