Coalition blasts Kadima’s alternatives to Tal Law

Netanyahu, Barak and Liberman each promise their own substitute for measure ruled unconstitutional.

Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The coalition voted down two Kadima bills on Wednesday that would have required those exempt from IDF enlistment to do national or civilian service, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak each saying they will propose their own alternative to the Tal Law.
On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice declared the Tal Law unconstitutional. The law, which the Knesset approved in 2002 and that expires on August 1 after three extensions, was designed to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to enlist in the IDF or perform national service, while allowing exemptions for those who choose to study Torah full-time instead of serving.
In an unusual move, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) presented the first bill, which was drafted by Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, saying that “it is time to stop lying to ourselves – the IDF is no longer the army of the nation.”
Livni accused ultra-Orthodox politicians of unfairly taking advantage of other politicians who value Torah study as a symbol of Jewish tradition.
“Unity comes first of all from joint contributions to society.
Therefore, these bills are not against haredim, but in favor of a united Israel,” she said.
“There is no choice. You must serve, and our country needs you. This injustice threatens us as a society.”
Hasson’s bill was defeated with 27 in favor and 53 against, while the second bill, proposed by MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), was voted down by 40 MKs with 23 supporting it.
Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would propose a bill to replace the Tal Law that will ensure greater equality.
“I clarified even before the High Court’s ruling that the Tal Law will not be renewed in its current structure,” the prime minister explained.
Netanyahu also pointed out that three governments, which he did not lead, approved extending the Tal Law since it passed in 2002. The Law expires on August 1, and the High Court said the Knesset may not extend it again.
“We will formulate a new law that will lead to more equality in carrying the burden and will also suit new realities in the State of Israel in the past decade. I will lead this move,” he explained.
Earlier on Wednesday, Liberman commended the High Court for “adopting Israel Beiteinu’s position” in its ruling on the Tal Law.
Liberman said that the ultra- Orthodox and Arabs must carry an equal share of the burden in society, whether through IDF service or national or civilian service.
According to Liberman, both coalition and opposition parties understand the importance of sharing the burden, saying that “there is no other way.”
The foreign minister assigned Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman David Rotem the task of writing Israel Beiteinu’s alternative to the Tal Law. Rotem posted a video on YouTube asking the public to submit ideas as to what the new bill should contain, so that it can gain consensus.
“I think the bill that we will propose will increase the unity in our nation and help with integration,” Liberman said. “I do not see a contradiction between studying Torah and obligations to the state. Even great historical leaders of Israel did not see a contradiction.”
Barak’s Independence faction reiterated its position that an alternative to the Tal Law must be approved. Previously, the defense minister advocated extending the law for another year, to allow more time to prepare for a new system.
According to Barak, the army should be able to choose who should enlist, and everyone else should perform national or civilian service.
Independence faction chairwoman Einat Wilf submitted two bills in the name of her party on Wednesday. The first would allow the IDF to recruit any 18- year-old it sees as fit for the military, and those who are not must do civilian service for at least one year, thus canceling Torah studies as a reason to be exempt from service.
The second bill would pay minimum wage to those serving their second and third years in the IDF, which would go to a fund toward higher education or professional training at the end of their service. The legislation is based on a previous proposal by MK Avishai Braverman (Labor).