Draft bill proposes changes in Tal Law

Finance Ministry aims to promote swifter haredi employment.

July 8, 2010 05:56
2 minute read.

As part of the government’s attempts to promote employment within the haredi sector, the Finance Ministry is proposing changes in the Tal Law that will allow earlier and easier exemptions from military service.

A Haaretz report from Wednesday cited the draft of the economic arrangements bill for 2011-2012, which MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) posted on her Web site last week.

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The section dealing with employment contains a clause titled “Promoting Haredi Employment,” in which the Treasury states the goal of raising the numbers of working haredim “and improving the entire economy’s potential for growth.”

To that end, the Treasury suggests that the defense minister allow 22-year-old haredi men to do civilian, rather than military service. Performing either type of service would subsequently allow these individuals to be legally employed, in contrast to the situation that prevails when a young man defers his military service to study Torah.

At present, only men who reach the age of 26 are permitted to choose civilian service. While the haredi-friendly “Shahar” IDF track is a two-year program, the civilian service requirement can be fulfilled in one year.

The Treasury also recommends that the defense minister exercise his authority to exempt men from military service at the age of 25 instead of 41, as is currently the case. Such an exemption would also allow an individual to legally become part of the Israeli workforce.

The proposal states that the men would be freed of the obligation to perform active military service, but would be “joined to the reserve forces.” It is unclear how the Treasury expects people with no military experience to do reserve duty.

According to the data in the bill, low employment rates among haredi men compared to those of the general male population (40.4 percent and 82% in 2008, respectively) combined with the high rate of growth of the haredi populace, increase the need to draw more haredim into the workforce.

But the Treasury’s proposal – while potentially stemming poverty among haredim and raising their quality of life – could cause a drop in the rates of young haredi men enlisting in the IDF, after a rise in recent years.

Besides the problem such a scenario could cause the IDF, which is seeking ways to increase the numbers of draftees, it would mark a de facto end to the underlying Israeli principle of sharing the military burden, said Rabbi Uri Regev,  head of the Hiddush Organization for Equality and Freedom .

Such a change to the Tal Law, which went into effect in 2002, would likely be challenged in court.

In 2007, the Knesset extended the law by five years, after the state admitted, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice, that implementation during its first five-year period had failed.

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