Defense minister proposes revised Tal Law

Demonstration continues at central train station against law that gives yeshiva students different conditions for army service.

Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for a new law to replace the controversial Tal Law, and new provisions that would provide free higher education to those who serve in the IDF.
Barak said that the government should extend the Tal Law should only by one year, as opposed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's proposition to extend it five years, in order to allot a period of time in which to revise the law.
The defense minister proposed allowing a quota of somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 ultra-religious citizens that can continue their studies instead of mandatory conscription, as per the Tal Law. The rest would be required to serve in the army.
Barak joined critical voices throughout the government opposing the law, including Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chair Shaul Mofaz (Kadima). Mofaz last week called the Tal Law a "failure," arguing that it has turned the "people's army" into "half the people's army."
Hundreds of students are expected to protest the Tal Law on Sunday between 9:00 and 10:30 a.m., Army Radio reported. Students sent a letter to the prime minister Saturday, demanding that the government draft a law the treats conscription as "equal to all citizens of Israel."
Dozens of protesters gathered Saturday night at the Arlozorof train station in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the Tal Law.
Executive Director of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization Gil Simenhois visited the the mock military "Camp Sucker" to show solidarity with the struggle.
The Tal Law affords those studying full-time in a yeshiva the option of deferring their military service until they are 22. Once they reach that age, they can perform a year of vocational training, and then decide whether to join the army for a minimum of 16 months followed by annual reserve duty, or to perform a year of civilian service. After that point, they are legally free to join the work force.
The encampment is somewhat reminiscent of the protest tents set up over the summer across the country, with booths set up by different NGOs, activists milling around talking to journalists, and the occasional passing car honking its approval or disdain. Activists said Thursday that the encampment would remain open until Sunday morning, and that an assortment of public figures would make appearances.