Coalition to pass Kadima’s alternative to Tal Law

UTJ, Shas: Without “Torato Omanuto,” we’ll leave coalition; Likud to insert changes to keep consensus with haredi parties.

May 8, 2012 20:07
Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz

Binyamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The “Tal Law” will be replaced with a Kadima-led, government-sponsored Basic Law requiring all citizens to perform military or civilian service, with changes suggested by the Likud, following the coalition agreement signed on Tuesday.

According to the agreement, both parties will work to pass a law to ensure “equal and fair distribution of the burden of IDF service between the parts of Israel’s population” by July 31, the day the Tal Law will expire, according to the High Court of Justice.

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A staff headed by Kadima will draft the bill, according to the agreement.

Two weeks ago, MK Yohanan Plesner, who chaired a subcommittee on the Tal Law in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, presented Kadima’s alternative bill, which will implement mandatory service for all within five years. Every citizen will be recruited to serve either in the IDF or in the areas of domestic security, education, welfare, health, emergency services or immigrant absorption. Anyone who does not serve if called will be denied any payments from the state.

A 1,000 exemplary yeshiva students will be exempt from service, and other yeshiva students may defer serving in the military or national service for one year, every year, for a maximum of eight years.

Likud sources said the party will suggest changes to the bill, so that it can pass without haredi parties leaving the coalition.

The main change is expected to be the reverse of allowing an exemption for 1,000 yeshiva stude5 nts. Rather than limiting the number of students, the legislation is likely to present a minimum number for haredim doing military or national service, which will be increased each year.

This gradual increase will allow both the IDF and haredi society to adjust to the major changes this legislation is likely to bring.

While Kadima chairman Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz expressed confidence that the new policy will be approved, several Kadima MKs told The Jerusalem Post they are skeptical about its chances, citing distrust of Netanyahu, among other reasons.

The haredi Knesset factions have greeted the new coalition arrangements cautiously, but United Torah Judaism leaders said their party would remain in the coalition for the meantime and said that they welcomed efforts to strengthen the government.

However, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) emphasized that, as the party sees it, the coalition agreement made when the government was formed in 2009 stands, and the addition of Kadima does change the original coalition accords.

He pointed out that in particular, the principle of military service deferrals for haredi men studying in yeshiva, Torato Omanuto (“Torah is his vocation”), was a central part of the coalition agreement.

“There can’t be a situation in Israel in 2012 where someone who wants to study Torah will not be able to do so,” Litzman said. “But as long as the principle of Torato Omunato is preserved, UTJ will remain in the coalition.”

He added that capping the number of yeshiva students eligible for military service exemptions would be unacceptable, but conceded that “anyone who is not learning as he should be should be drafted.”

Nevertheless, the deputy minister admitted that the party was concerned about the proposals for a Tal Law replacement made before the new coalition deal was announced.

A spokesman for Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said that how the issue is managed is now in the hands of the prime minister, but that the party hopes that any new legislation will be worked out through compromise and agreement.

Shas chairman Eli Yishai told Army Radio on Tuesday an alternative to the Tal Law can be found to suit both sides and that the High Court ruling did not say that all haredim have to be drafted, only that the law must be changed.

He also said that the Defense Ministry and the military establishment are “not interested” in drafting haredim, an assertion he has made several times over the past few months.

“There are thousands waiting to be drafted, but the army doesn’t want too many haredim,” despite “an increase in haredi willingness and motivation to enlist,” Yishai said.

As for fixing a quota for the number of haredim who must enlist each year, Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev told the Post that, in his opinion, this policy is already in place de facto, and has been since 2008, possibly referring to government goals for haredi enlistment set following the renewal of the Tal Law in 2008.

He said, however, that Shas insists that the principle of Torato Omunato remains in place, and did not see any contradiction between this policy and setting a quota for drafting a set number of men from the haredi sector.

Ze’ev added that he was extremely pleased the Knesset would not be dissolved, because it would prevent radicalization within Kadima regarding the Tal Law, and would also prevent Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid from influencing the issue with his “extremist” policies.

“Now that there’s more time to discuss the issue, we can talk about it with more respect and in greater sincerity, not just in populist terms,” Ze’ev said. “But the prime minister must try to bridge between the demands of the different sectors. The only way to achieve anything on this issue is through dialogue.”

He added that there were many different solutions and alternatives for getting the ultra-Orthodox community to take up the “yoke of serving the state,” a process that he said is already under way.

Boaz Nol, one of the leaders of the “Camp Sucker” IDF draft-reform movement, called the developments a “potential revolution” and said that his movement welcomed the new coalition arrangements, provided that they result in a law mandating obligatory military or civilian service for all.

“A few months ago, it seemed like the Tal Law was simply going to be extended for another five years, but following our efforts, this issue has spurred the formation of what is basically a new government, so we’re proud and happy about these developments,” said Nol. “But the faith of the electorate in the prime minister and Shaul Mofaz, and their personal integrity, will now be tested, so we need to see results in three months’ time,” he added.

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