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