Haredi soldier 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would discuss with
his coalition partners the appropriate length of time by which to extend the Tal
Law, which is aimed at increasing ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF, and then
bring the decision for government approval.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the law would be extended
for five years.
PM plans to extend ‘Tal Law’ for 5 years
A lack of support from his coalition partners appears to
be the reason behind the prime minister’s volte-face.
On Tuesday night,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the law should not be extended for longer than
a year, during which time new legislation should be drawn up to deal with the
low level of ultra-Orthodox participation in national service
Barak’s Independence faction praised Netanyahu for backing away
from a five-year extension and stated that at its next faction meeting, party
leader Barak will present a proposal for new legislation.
chairwoman MK Einat Wilf said the new law would see all citizens sharing the
burden of national service in an equitable manner and abolish exemptions from
national service due to religious studies, thereby freeing all Israeli citizens
to join the work force following the end of their service.
Beiteinu also said it would oppose a five-year extension. A spokesman said on
Sunday that the Knesset faction was waiting for the prime minister to sit down
with party leaders to discuss alternatives.
The Tal Law, enacted in 2000,
was designed to increase enlistment in the army among ultra-Orthodox yeshiva
students, who would then be able to join the work force. It allows those
studying full-time in yeshivot to postpone mandatory military service every year
until age 22, when they have a year to decide whether or not to take up one of
two options: four months of military service followed by annual reserve duty, or
a year of national civilian service.
Despite its moderate terms, IDF
recruitment of ultra-Orthodox men remains extremely low. Following Netanyahu’s
remarks about the law on on Sunday, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) described it as
“a failure by any standard.”
According to statistics from the Prime
Minister’s Office, 2,361 ultra- Orthodox men were drafted into national service
programs in 2011, with more than 1,200 of those enlisting in the army. The PMO
claimed that this represented a 284- percent increase over haredi enlistment in
2008, when the current government took office.
MK Yohanan Plesner
(Kadima), who chairs the Knesset working group for the law’s implementation but
advocates new legislation, said the battle against the law would not be won
until it was completely rejected.
“Because the expiration date of the law
is approaching in the coming months, we demand from the government that it bring
new legislation to the Knesset for approval, which will include a different
arrangement to promote a vision of ‘mandatory service for all,’” Plesner said.