PM: Historic change to come with enlistment plan

Ya'alon presents outline for "Tal Law" replacement: sanctions to be implemented only if enlistment goals not met.

July 22, 2012 19:15
3 minute read.
Haredim stand atop IDF Merkava tank

Haredim stand atop IDF Merkava tank 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a “historic change” is about to take place, before Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon’s presentation of his proposal to replace the “Tal Law” on Sunday to the cabinet.

“The purpose of the plan is to significantly increase the number of haredim serving in the IDF and the number of haredi and Arab citizens doing civilian service,” Netanyahu said.

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“We will pass a new law that will incrementally raise the number of people serving – among haredim and Arabs – without inciting one group against another.”

Ya’alon’s plan seeks to raise the number of haredim enlisting in the IDF or doing national service from the current 2,400 to 6,000 by 2016, and lower the age of exemption from 28 to 26. The goal for Arab civilian service in 2016 is 5,000, more than double the current amount – 2,400. Today, 400 Israeli Arabs volunteer in the IDF, and the government is not seeking to significantly increase that number.

The prime minister pointed out that the change in policy comes after 64 years of the state’s existence, and that reality has changed over time.

According to Netanyahu, Ya’alon’s plan is “realistic and possible to implement” and will “give more to those who serve and less to those who shirk their duties.” In a dig at Kadima, Netanyahu said the proposal is not a “futile move meant to generate headlines.”

Last Tuesday, Kadima left the coalition after refusing to accept Ya’alon’s plan.

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said the proposal “crossed red lines” and that the prime minister “chose the interests of the minority over that of the majority.”

“In light of the fact that it is not possible to reach an agreement with Kadima, we are currently working on our own proposal,” said Ya’alon, explaining that the next step is a government decision.

Kadima called the proposal “an embarrassment,” allowing most haredim to avoid enlistment.

“The Israeli public will not accept this proposal, and neither will the Supreme Court,” a party spokesman said. “This is trickery that will not find a majority in the Knesset, and Kadima will appeal the law’s inequality in court.”

In the coming weeks, relevant government offices, such as the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry, will work on their part of Ya’alon’s bill, which will be brought to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

After that, said Ya’alon – once there is a likely majority in favor of the bill – it will be brought to the Knesset, even in the middle of the summer recess, which begins this week and continues through October 15.

Ya’alon’s outline sets a goal of equality in the burden of service while preserving the uniqueness of the haredi and Arab populations in Israel, as well as continuing Torah study. As such, every male citizen will be required to report to a relevant government office at age 16 in relation to his future service, and the government will set a goal of how many haredim and Israeli Arabs will serve.

This figure will increase annually.

In addition, the Defense Ministry will develop service options that are suitable to haredim, and civilian service options will be expanded so that everyone can carry out “significant civilian service.”

Haredim will be able to postpone service as long as they study Torah 45 hours per week. The government will inspect and supervise yeshivas using biometric identifiers.

Any haredi man who postponed service and is discovered not studying 45 hours a week will be required to enlist or face the penalty currently listed in the 1986 Security Service Law – two to five years in prison.

If enlistment goals for haredim are not met, the government will implement “personal, negative financial incentives” against those who postpone service.

Funding of yeshivas will be changed in a way that encourages enlistment, in that the Torah-study institutions will receive more funding for students who enlist in the IDF or do national service, and less for those who do not. The further away haredi enlistment is from the goal figure, the larger the gap in funding will get.

Israeli-Arabs, like haredim, will be given the option to postpone service from age 18, and “personal, negative financial incentives” will only be implemented if goal numbers for those doing civilian service are not met.

Arab local authorities with more residents doing civilian service will receive greater funds than those with less. If goal numbers are not met, the government will consider decreasing funds in proportion to the number of residents who serve.

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