Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Keshev Committee tasked with replacing the
“Tal Law” on Thursday that the IDF and security services could make use of 50
percent of the annual intake of haredi men of military age, and that the
remaining potential recruits should go to civilian service
Speaking to the committee tasked with drawing up a proposal for
recruiting ultra-Orthodox men into national service, Barak said the new law was
crucial to several aspects of Israeli society.
“Creating a more equal
share in the burden of national service; increasing the size of the workforce;
increased opportunities for further education; and the “recalibration” of
mechanisms for supporting religious institutions [can all be achieved] through
the replacement of the Tal Law,” Barak said.
The Tal Law, which provided
a legal framework for haredi men to indefinitely defer military service to
pursue Torah studies, was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice
back in February and will expire on August 1.
During his address to the
committee, Barak also stressed the importance of conducting a dialogue with the
haredi community which was not “bullying or coercive” in its manner, but instead
“mature, responsible and aimed at reaching an agreed solution, as much as
“The haredi community is an essential element in the mosaic of
Israeli society and the link of the state and the Jewish people to its roots,”
As to the specifics of the new arrangement, Barak said
that the quota for those exempt from service on the basis of being exceptional
Torah scholars should be no more than 10% of the total number of haredi men
eligible for service in a given year.
Citing IDF statistics, Barak said
that approximately half of the remainder would be able to be drafted into tracks
within the military and security services.
Of these, a third could serve
in active duty units such as the Nahal Haredi battalion, a third in the IDF’s
Shahar track in which recruits fill advanced technological positions in the
army, and a third in the police force and the prison and firefighting
The remaining 50% of the annual intake of haredi recruits could
be drafted into civilian service programs.
Barak added, however, that the
civilian service requires revisions to ensure it is providing “real benefits to
society, does not steal the livelihoods of citizens and does not duplicate the
civilian security services.”
Barak said that national service should
remain obligatory, but that there is no desire on behalf of the state to fill
prisons with people who do not fulfill their obligation to serve.
such, he continued, the new arrangement needs to define clear benefits and
rights for those who serve which will give them substantial advantages over
those who refuse to do military or national service.
The defense minister
added that he hoped the committee would not be deterred from creating an
equilibrium between demands by the High Court of Justice and civil society to
equally distribute the burden of national service; the requirements of the
Israeli economy; and the public and political discourse with the haredi
Barak also said that those who serve in IDF combat units should
receive greater compensation for their service than those serving in other
arenas of military and national service.