PM: Changes will be proposed for Tal Law

Lieberman reiterates his party’s opposition to any extension for the law whatsoever

By
January 30, 2012 21:41
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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In apparent deference to political pressure and public sentiment, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday changes to the Tal Law will be proposed before any extension of the law is voted on in the Knesset.

“We need to find a better and more just solution, but also one that does not divide and split the nation,” Netanyahu said at a meeting of the Likud faction.

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He said the government would propose changes to the law before August, when the Knesset will have to vote on whether to extend the law. Originally passed as a temporary law in 2002, it requires renewal every five years.

The prime minister announced earlier this month his intention to renew the law in its original form. The decision generated intense political and grassroots opposition, however, with coalition partners Israel Beiteinu and Independence openly opposing a five-year extension.

Although the Tal Law was designed to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to enlist in military or national service, haredi recruitment to national service remains relatively low. According to IDF figures, in 2011, 1,282 ultra-Orthodox men enlisted to IDF service out of a potential pool of 8,500, representing an enlistment rate of 15 percent.

National enlistment rates are approximately 75%, excluding the Arab sector, which is exempt from military service.

In addition to IDF service, 1,079 ultra- Orthodox men enlisted to national service programs in 2011.



Despite the prime minister’s announcement that reforms will be made to the law, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his party’s opposition to any extension for the law whatsoever and stated during a faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday that all 15 Israel Beiteinu MKs will vote against the law.

“No one needs to pressure me to vote for or against it – my stance is clear,“ he said. “Unlike other people, my word can be trusted.”

According to the foreign minister, there is no reason to delay the vote on the law for another year, as proposed by Independence, because after 10 years that the Tal Law has been in effect, “there are clear results and we have already come to conclusions.”

Lieberman said Israel Beiteinu is not anti-haredi; rather it supports “Judaism without politics.” Speaking with anti-Tal Law activists, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said the prime minister was “captive to his coalition partners,” referring to United Torah Judaism and Shas who are in favor of maintaining the status quo.

Sources within UTJ have said the party would leave the coalition if the law were scrapped, and a Shas official told The Jerusalem Post last week the party would “fight till the end” to preserve the law.

Livni said Kadima had already proposed legislation during the current Knesset session to obligate all citizens to serve in the IDF or national service, but the coalition had “unsurprisingly” opposed it.

Labor MK Isaac Herzog also expressed opposition to extending the law in its current form, saying it must be improved and revised.

“We need a law that will ensure that more haredim enlist in the army than is the case at the moment,” he said during a Labor faction meeting Monday.

Independence, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, also opposes the law but is willing to extend it by one year to allow time to draw up new legislation. Barak reiterated this position Monday during a party faction meeting.

Little progress was made on increasing haredi enlistment to IDF and national service programs for the first five years of the law’s life. In 2007, 288 ultra-Orthodox men enlisted in with the IDF. The number has risen steadily since then, with 1,282 enlisting in 2011. Combined with the 1,079 ultra-Orthodox men who enlisted to national or civilian service programs, approximately 27% of the 8,500 haredim who could have been drafted in 2011 enlisted in some form of national service.

Those advocating a repeal or dramatic reform of the law argue the increase in haredi recruitment is too slow and is not keeping up with the natural increase of the ultra-Orthodox population.

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