During a marathon meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to discuss the Tal Law on Tuesday, retired Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal said that the law in his name had failed to encourage haredi enlistment to the IDF.
During the hearing, which was held in a rare open-door session, the team of MKs, IDF personnel, and representatives of the Civilian Service Authority and relevant social organizations tasked with probing the efficacy of the Tal Law presented its findings.
Tal, who also sat on the team, said that the aim of the legislation was social-legal and not operational.
The primary mandate of the commission, he said, was to anchor in law an arrangement regarding yeshiva members' non-service in the IDF.
The second goal, he said, was to find a way to cope with the economic and social implications of the phenomenon of non-service.
Tal said that ultimately, he was disappointed by the low levels of participation in the "decision year" program, as well as by the fact that the civilian service option had not realized its goals because it does not involve participants in "state services" such as firefighting or Magen David Adom.
Tal said that the basic assumption of the committee was that the army did not need the haredim to "fill the ranks," but Brig.-Gen. Amir Rogovski, the IDF Manpower Division's representative at the hearing, said there are significant personnel gaps in the military due to the "increasing security challenges" and the lack of available draft candidates.
Rogovski added that the IDF does not intend to create any further frameworks that will be exclusively for haredim, but will instead seek to expand enlistment numbers while integrating the soldiers into existing units, with the necessary considerations taken.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), the head of the review team, said that the Knesset must address "this important topic" and that it is clear to all that the existing policy has failed, both in terms of the values it was intended to promote and in terms of its ability to provide for the operational needs of the IDF.
"Ten years after the Tal Commission, and seven years after the Tal Law went into effect, the number of people delaying or getting a general exemption from service has increased - we have a limited window of opportunity to create a change," warned Plesner.
He emphasized that the goal of his team had been to probe the obstacles preventing a dramatic increase in the rates of haredi enlistment to the army and civilian service, and to propose policy and legislative changes to "save the situation while it was still possible."
At the conclusion of the hearing, Plesner set up a schedule of follow-up sessions on topics including civilian service, the IDF's personnel needs, and trends in haredi society, in order to reach a solution.
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