Interior Minister and Shas chairman Eli Yishai wrote on Thursday that the Tal
Law, struck down by the High Court of Justice on Tuesday as unconstitutional,
would be extended for another year despite the ruling.
Writing in the
Shas weekly Yom Leyom, he said that more time would be needed to draft new
legislation to address the issue of haredi enlistment in the army.
Tal Law will expire on August 1, and the High Court ruled that the Knesset
cannot renew it.
Yishai added that it was the Finance Ministry that was
preventing more ultra-Orthodox men from enlisting, due to budgetary
“Two battalions are waiting to be drafted, but the IDF isn’t
drafting them because of a lack of funds,” he wrote.
“There are hundreds
more waiting to enlist in national service programs.”
He also claimed
that the haredi community was being made into a “sacrificial offering for the
benefit of both politicians dealing with primary elections and those trying to
establish new parties.”
“There won’t be a yeshiva student who will need
to leave the world of Torah because of the abolishment of this law,” Yishai
added in comments made to the haredi weekly Mishpacha.
us, as representatives of the community, is the responsibility to ensure
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), chairman of the Knesset working group
for the implementation of the Tal Law, and a longtime advocate of military-draft
reform, said the Shas chairman was simply “expressing what Netanyahu has been
whispering behind closed doors,” that he has no intention of abiding by the High
Plesner called Yishai’s demands for a year to write
legislation “unfounded and unnecessary,” and said that a new law could be
drafted within two months.
According to Plesner, army representatives
said at a working group hearing on Tuesday that there were not enough 18- to
21-year-olds for more than one battalion like the combat Netzah Yehuda Battalion
(“Nahal Haredi”), designed for ultra- Orthodox soldiers, which drafts more than
500 soldiers every year. The army is understood to be reluctant to create
another battalion on the same basis.
In a committee meeting in October,
Brig.-Gen. Amir Rogovski of the IDF’s Human Resources Directorate told the
Knesset Tal Law working group that there had been 700 applicants for the Shahar
army track for haredim, but only 500 places due to budgetary constraints.
Rogovski said that the Treasury was refusing to provide the funds required to
draft the additional 200 haredi applicants.
Recruiting haredi soldiers is
expensive under current frameworks, since many of the men are married with
children, which entitles soldiers to a supplementary army income of as much as
NIS 5,000 a month.
Shahar Ilan, the deputy director of Hiddush, a
religious freedom lobbying group, said there are probably enough willing haredim
to draft at least one more battalion, but that the IDF does not want another
sectarian-based unit, as they are seen as a threat to democracy due to the
possibility of them turning into a private army.
“If Netanyahu wants Yair
Lapid’s polling numbers to get back up to 20 [Knesset] seats, then ignoring the
High Court ruling is a good way of going about it,” Ilan added.
Shmuel Auerbach, a leading figure in the non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox community,
wrote a strongly worded article on Thursday, published on the front page of the
Degel Hatorah mouthpiece Yated Neeman, attacking the notion of drafting yeshiva
students. (Degel Hatorah is one of the two parties that make up United Torah
Auerbach called the ruling a “decree to uproot religion, which we are
commanded to protect with our lives without exception, God forbid, in order to
sanctify the name of Heaven.
“The purpose of this awful decree is to harm
the heart of Judaism – this cannot be in Israel,” he added.
considered to be the closest disciple of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the
current undisputed leader of the “Lithuanian” non-hassidic world. Elyashiv is 101 years old, however, and
has been hospitalized for several weeks in serious condition.
Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday that the Knesset plenum would
continue the discussion begun several weeks ago in accordance with the law’s
requirements to begin debating its extension six months before the expiration of
its five-year period of validity.
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