Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman announced on Thursday that he will continue to push forward his party’s alternative to the “Tal Law,” even if the current Knesset session is curtailed.
The Tal Law, which allows haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men to indefinitely defer IDF service and was recently invalidated by the High Court of Justice, is set to become the central issue in the upcoming election. Yisrael Beytenu is recruiting MKs to support its replacement for the legislation, which would require all 18-year-old men to enlist in the IDF or preform civilian service.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin on Wednesday night submitted a bill to dissolve the Knesset, which will be approved next week. As a result, the Tal Law, which was set to expire on August 1, will be automatically extended for six to eight months.
Liberman’s party planned to bring its plan to a preliminary plenum vote on May 9 and threatened to bring down the coalition if it does not pass.
Since May 9 is now expected to be the last day of the 18th Knesset, the bill would have to pass in its first reading on Monday and Yisrael Beytenu would have to push it through an accelerated legislative process so it can become law by Wednesday.
The process cannot be sped up unless the bill is approved for government support by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, which is unlikely, as haredi parties and the Likud would have to approve it. Haredi parties oppose requiring their constituents to serve, while the Likud would lose points politically by allowing Yisrael Beytenu’s reform to pass.
Another possibility, the foreign minister explained in a press conference on Thursday, is to get signatures from 61 MKs, which would require Speaker Reuven Rivlin to call a meeting of the Knesset despite its dissolution.
Liberman called a press conference in the Knesset with leaders of the Camp Sucker and Common Denominator protest movements, which advocate universal service and support Yisrael Beytenu’s bill.
Boaz Nol and Idan Miller, leaders of the protest groups, called on MKs to approve the legislation before the Knesset is dissolved.
“The silent majority will not allow politicians to postpone this decision again,” Nol and Miller said. “We will support any party’s proposal, as long as they keep the principle of equality in the burden.”
Liberman told Nol and Miller that they can count on signatures from Yisrael Beytenu’s 15 MKs, but encouraged them to call members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, as well as parliamentarians from other parties that said they support the protest groups’ goals.
Yisrael Beytenu’s bill would require all 18-year-old men to enlist in the IDF or perform civilian service. The proposal allows for 1,000 yeshiva students and the same number of athletes and artists to receive an exemption from the draft to encourage those with exceptional talents.
Those who do not serve the state may not receive any grants or payments from the government.
Later on Thursday, MK Einat Wilf (Independence) announced that she would bring her party’s proposed alternative to the Tal Law to a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.
Independence party chairman Ehud Barak submitted an identical ministerial bill, which does not require approval from the committee. Wilf’s move is meant to strengthen Barak’s measure.
The Independence bill calls for the IDF to decide which 18-year-olds should serve in the military. Those who are not recruited by the army would have to perform civilian service for one year.
According to Wilf, Independence’s bill is the only one “that is based on the IDF’s understanding of security.”