Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin on Tuesday told the Israel Bar Association in Eilat that the Tal Law controversy cannot be resolved by "imposing a solution" on the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community, but by working with them on a "cooperative basis."
Rivlin said that society's conception of haredim must change, as they no longer represent an insignificant minority, "like the Amish in the US." Rather, the haredim and the Israeli-Arab community already make-up thirty percent of the population and are growing fast.
While the Knesset speaker was supportive of major reform and believed continued across-the-board exemptions from military and national service for haredim could not continue, he also insisted that forcing a solution would endanger Israel's social fabric.
Rivlin noted that Likud, Kadima and Yisrael Beytenu now have the votes and legal power to impose a solution without the need for support from the Shas and United Torah Judaism haredi parties.
He predicted that an imposed solution would lead to thousands of haredim resisting the law and being thrown in prison, imposing a new cumbersome burden on the state.
But Rivlin said that the haredi community would also need a paradigm shift in its views, moving from relating to the state and its institutions passively, to "taking responsibility for the future of this country."
He continued that haredim also cannot think of themselves as a "minority under attack and without rights. Already they have ministers, deputy ministers and heads of committees."
Rivlin said it would be hard to explain to the wider public how a haredi minister could be involved in "deciding to go to war without his kids or his constituency bearing the consequences of this decision" along with the rest of the population.
The Keshev Committee, an acronym of the Hebrew phrase “promoting equality in the burden,” recently started meeting to propose a solution for integrating haredim and Israeli Arabs into the army or civilian service, and dealing with any related topics that may influence the integration, directly or indirectly.
The committee must submit a report summarizing its work, conclusions and recommendations.
In addition, it will draft a bill on the issue, and tell the government how it should implement the proposed legislation – including budgetary implications and supervisory mechanisms.
All of this must be completed by June 28. The date will give the Knesset time to pass the bill before July 25, when it goes on summer recess, and before August 1, the date on which the “Tal Law” will no longer be valid, according to the High Court of Justice ruling from earlier this year.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.