Court hears arguments for and against overturning Tal Law

Statistics on haredi enlistment leave justices unimpressed.

January 29, 2011 21:24
3 minute read.
A haredi man walks past IDF soldiers

soldiers haredi 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Supreme Court strenuously questioned the statistics which the state presented on Sunday to try to prove that it had made great strides in implementing the Tal Law since a previous hearing in June 2007.

“There has been a significant change in the number of people who have enlisted in the army or volunteered for public service,” the state’s representative, Osnat Mandel, head of the High Court Section of the State Attorney’s Office, told the court.

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During the previous hearing, the court had warned the state that if the Tal Law did not bring about a significant change in the number of haredim who joined one or the other of the frameworks offered them by the Tal Law, the law could be considered unconstitutional because it would fail to meet the proportionality test.

According to that test, the benefits achieved by the law must outweigh the harm caused to the principal of equality embedded in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.

The state asked the court to accept two criteria for accepting the proportionality test. The first was the increased number of haredim who joined the army or volunteered for public service. The second was the organizational and financial measures taken by the government to enable increasing numbers of haredim to join these frameworks in the future.

Mandel offered the court a statistical measurement to prove that the situation had improved dramatically over the past few years. She told the court that the state had taken the number of haredim who became eligible for the draft each year, and divided it by the number of haredim who joined the army or public service in the same year.

According to this system, the ratio of haredim who joined either one of the frameworks compared to the number of haredim who became eligible for the draft increased from 7 percent in 2007, to 17% in 2008, to 34% in 2009 to 37% in 2010.

“The figure is increasing each year,” said Mandel. “We expect it to reach 65% in 2015.”

But the justices were unconvinced that the calculation used by the state was relevant.

“There is nothing in common between the numerator and denominator,” Justice Esther Hayut told Mandel. Many of the justices agreed.

The reason for this was that the number of haredim who join the army or public service in a given year could come from any cohort between the ages of 18 and 30, and not necessarily from the 18-year-olds who were entering draft age that year.

Nevertheless, Mandel insisted that the figures that emerged from this arithmetic operation served as a reliable index to prove that the situation was improving.

She also provided information to back her contention that the second criteria, that of improving the procedures for encouraging haredim to volunteer for one or the other of the two frameworks, had also improved dramatically since the previous hearing on the petitions. The government had also promised to substantially increase the budget allocations for the two services.

Petitions against the Tal Law, a temporary law which was renewed by the Knesset in July 2007, were filed by attorney Yehuda Ressler, The Movement for Quality Government, former Shinui MK and minister Avraham Poraz, and former Meretz MK Ran Cohen.

Ressler, a veteran lawyer and retired IDF major, has been fighting for decades to impose almost universal conscription of haredi men.

Off the cuff, he said he would not oppose allowing 5,000 haredim to continue studying in yeshivot and receiving exemption from military service.

Ressler told the court, “Whatever you do, make a decision now. Do not postpone it for many months.”

The court will apparently do so.

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