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