The Ministerial Committee for Legislation cleared proposals for alternatives to the "Tal Law" from the Yisrael Beytenu and Independence parties, allowing them to advance in the Knesset before it dissolves this week.
This bills' passage is the first hurdle in an accelerated legislative process that would allow the bills to be discussed in their first readings on Monday- the next necessary stop to make it law by Wednesday, when the Knesset is expected to dissolve.
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 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.
Yisrael Beytenu welcomed the decision by the ministerial committee, who the party said "understood well the importance of the bill." The party urged Knesset members from all factions "to take advantage of this opportunity to replace the Tal Law, which perpetuates inequality in Israeli society and uneven distribution of its burden. "
MK David Rotem who initiated the bill said, "I think the law is very important because it recognizes both the importance of military service and the importance of Torah study."
"Every Israeli citizen must to military service and the days when the entire burden is carried on the shoulders of a certain population of people must be a thing of the past," he added.
The Independence bill, proposed by MK Einat Wilf, 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.”
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.
Also Monday, Shas leader Eli Yishai met with Camp Sucker protesters in their tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office Monday afternoon to discuss the options for replacing the Tal Law.
Asked why, as someone who served in the army and someone whose children have served, Yishai does not support a law requiring service for all, the Interior Minister said that he is in favor of drafting any haredi man not studying in yeshiva.
But Yishai evaded direct questions put to him by Boaz Nul, one of the leaders of the IDF draft reform protest, as to why he does not support legislation which would mandate obligatory IDF or national service for all.
He also repeated a claim he has made several times, stating that there are “thousands” of haredim who are waiting to enlist into the army programs designed for ultra-Orthodox men but who have yet to be drafted.