The ‘Tal Law’s real winners and losers

All of Israel’s citizens must be the winners, but it will only happen through meaningful dialogue and genuine willingness to progress.

August 2, 2012 21:53
3 minute read.
Haredi man overlooking IDF ceremony

Haredi man, IDF ceremony Tal Law Keshev IDF390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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When the “Tal Law” expired this week, with no replacement at hand, politicians on both sides of the haredi-conscription debate fooled themselves into thinking they arose victorious.

But in truth, our politician’s shortsightedness only increases the burden of hard-working citizens and will ultimately create greater trouble for those same politicians who have avoided genuine progress.

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How has this absurd situation arisen? Haredi leaders successfully avoided compromising on a plan that conscripts yeshiva students. In addition, no Tal Law means every citizen must be conscripted equally, yet few expect the Defense Ministry to instantly conscript 60,000 haredi men by force – creating a de facto, if not de jure, victory for haredi politicians.

Similarly, their opponents see the legal outcome of this stalemate as a victory of principle that will advance their mission of balancing the burden in Israel, at least in law. This position now has significant ammunition for attack in the High Court of Justice, which is likely to produce further pressure, but questionable results on the ground.

So who has really won or lost this battle? Sadly, it seems that here in Israel there is no such thing as a win-win situation; everything about life here is a zerosum game. And I believe both sides have lost.

There are many thousands of haredim, of many shades, who were waiting for the politicians to find a sensible way towards positive change.

They were hoping for encouragement for the existing trends of increased army and national service, advances in higher education or professional training, and the growth of men joining the mainstream workforce. For them, this defeat is even a humiliation as the haredi politicians successfully maintain and extend their political grip over the population by avoiding the inevitable once again.


Similarly, mainstream Israelis who serve in the IDF and continue every year in the reserves have suffered a frustrating loss.

They know that no replacement for the Tal Law also means that the very same political will that was lacking to find a sensible replacement will also be lacking to implement a mass draft of haredi men.

They see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes, the losers here are the sensible, hard-working families who seek political leaders not beholden to extremists.

As for the politicians who celebrate a short-term victory, the paradox is that both sides are incentivized to maintain the status quo, each for their own political and short-term needs. While several pragmatic solutions to the problem have been put forth, the minimum goodwill and common sense to agree upon and implement change is lacking on both sides.

However, ultimately the fundamental injustice and the impractical economics these politicians have created will simply haunt them until change sweeps them away from beneath. And now is the time for that tide to move forward.

At Gesher, we have begun an important process built on a simple set of beliefs. On the one hand, honest face-to-face dialogue between real people is the only way to build trust and confidence in the other side, even as we disagree with them. On the other, we know that social change is not an overnight switch from state A to state B, but a process which needs to be nurtured by all sides and which will require maturity and patience. We know, because we have begun this dialogue, that there are very serious people on both sides of this argument capable of playing a constructive role, and we plan to build on this momentum, well beyond expiration of the Tal Law on midnight Tuesday.

We have no choice; our duty as citizens demands it of us, and we believe that until enough sensible people at the ground level get involved in this dialogue, the solution will not be found.

All of Israel’s citizens must be the winners, but it will only happen through meaningful dialogue and genuine willingness to progress. Otherwise, we will remain beholden to the Pyrrhic victories of short-sighted political blindness.

The writer is chairman of Gesher and managing partner at Goldrock Capital, a private equity firm.

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