MKs across the political spectrum agreed on Monday that the “Tal Law” was a
failure and called for new legislation to ensure more haredi men enlist in the
During a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hearing, the
panel’s chairman, Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of staff,
joined forces with other lawmakers to call for the law to be changed.
Tal Law was approved in 2002, in an effort to attract more haredi men to enlist
in the army through which they could then be legally employed.
grants those studying full-time in a yeshiva the option to defer their military
service until age 23, spend a year in vocational training, and then choose
whether to join the army for six months followed by annual reserve duty, or to
perform a year of civilian service, and then be free to legally join the
The MKs who joined Mofaz in opposing the legislation were
Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who is in charge of Knesset efforts to implement the
Tal Law, former defense minister and committee member Amir Peretz (Labor), as
well as committee members Einat Wilf (Independence), Isaac Herzog (Labor) and
Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu).
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
last week he would seek an extension of the Tal Law for five years, but
backtracked in the face of opposition from coalition members.
of haredi men who could have enlisted in 2011 was 8,500, according to Maj.-Gen.
Orna Barbivai, head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate, who was present
during the hearing.
Of those, 1,282 men from the ultra-Orthodox community
enlisted in IDF programs in 2011 and another 1,079 enlisted in the civilian
service option provided by the Tal Law, according to IDF figures cited during
“We cannot accept that the ‘people’s army’ turns into ‘half
the people’s army,’” Mofaz said, arguing for a new model of national service
“based on the principle of service for all.”
Mofaz also criticized the
level of enlistment to the IDF among the population as a whole, which he said
stood at just 50 percent as of 2011.
Mofaz quoted from the Talmud, citing
the dictum that “the law of the land is the law,” meaning that Jews are
obligated to follow the laws of the state in which they find themselves,
although the applications of this principle are debated.
believes in this also has to follow it,” he said.
Opposition leader Tzipi
Livni, speaking in the Knesset plenum later in the day, called for a united
front from the Zionist parties to prevent the nation splitting into
“It’s our job to ensure that Israel is a place in which everyone
contributes to the state, whether it’s military service, national service or
civilian service,” she declared.
On the other side of the fence, both
ultra-Orthodox MKs and experts provided evidence at the hearing that the law
should not be hastily discarded.
Shalom Gerbi, head of the Civilian and
National Service Administration, defended the law’s achievements and argued that
the statistics reflected both a significant and a growing number of
ultra-Orthodox men enlisting in some form of national service.
emphasized that integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the army was a long-term
process for which there would no quick fix. Gerbi believes “a real revolution”
is occurring on the “haredi street,” with a growing understanding that national
service participation must be increased.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah
Judaism) made a brief appearance at the hearing, during which he argued that
studying Torah was also an issue of national security. He asked why there were
no calls for the secular community to integrate into the ultra-Orthodox
“We’re raising youth who don’t know Torah; in another five
years there won’t be a Jewish people here,” he shouted before leaving the
A source from the UTJ faction told The Jerusalem Post on Monday
night that the party would not allow those studying in yeshiva to be taken away
from their studies and that the coalition could be endangered if attempts were
made made to do so. Gafni is on record as supporting IDF enlistment for those
not engaged in full-time yeshiva studies.
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) accused
those advocating the abolition of the Tal Law of political gamesmanship, saying
that a social change has already begun within the haredi world regarding its
attitude to national service. Those “inciting” against the ultra- Orthodox were
cynically embracing a populist stance for political ends, he
Maj.-Gen. (res.) David Ivry, head of the temporary committee for
the evaluation of the civilian service, also declined to acknowledge that the
law had failed, and said that the enlistment figures proved that real
achievements had been made.
“It’s easy for those standing on the
sidelines to criticize the law, but the results we’ve got so far have been very
hard to achieve, so anyone who wants to draft a new law should know that it will
be very difficult to achieve better results than what we’re seeing at the
moment,” Ivry said.
Plesner threw cold water on these claims, saying that
80% of those who enlisted in the civilian service program served only within
their own community.
As such, he called for new legislation to bring
about “real integration of the haredi community in national service and