Liberman rules out Tal Law extension

Senior haredi rabbis and politicians call for unity to prevent change to status quo.

FM Liberman speaks during Yisrael Beitenu meeting_311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
FM Liberman speaks during Yisrael Beitenu meeting_311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman ruled out any extension of the Tal Law at a Knesset faction meeting on Monday.
“I am saying to all my colleagues in the Knesset and the government: there is absolutely no possibility to extend the Tal Law by even an hour,” Liberman said.
The High Court of Justice declared the Tal Law unconstitutional on Tuesday, and said that the government could not renew it when it expires in August. The law was originally designed to encourage haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men to enlist in the IDF or perform national service, while preserving the framework through which full-time yeshiva students can indefinitely postpone their military service.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that the law would have to be extended by another year in order to draft a new law.
During the faction meeting, Liberman said that anyone who does not serve their country should not be eligible for any stipends or scholarships from the state, but top Torah scholars could receive postponements or exemptions from army service, as do professional athletes or artists.
There should be no more than 1,000 yeshiva students who qualify for this privilege, he said.
Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, one of the country’s senior haredi rabbis, convened an emergency meeting on Sunday of other leading rabbinical figures at his home in Bnei Brak to discuss the matter.
Shteinman called the meeting in place of haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who has been hospitalized for the past several weeks. Attendees included Yishai, as well as United Torah Judaism MKs Ya’acov Litzman, Yisrael Eichler and Moshe Gafni.
“Without Torah study, there is no existence for the Nation of Israel,” Shteinman said.
“Throughout the history of the Jewish people, we survived because of our fulfillment of the Torah and on this we must give up our lives.”
However, Shteinman did support the establishment of the IDF’s Netzah Yehudah haredi battalion and sent a representative to sit on the committee that originally drafted the law, which was then opposed by most of the haredi establishment.
Litzman said that all the different ultra-Orthodox parties must unite in order to safeguard the ability of kollel students to remain in full-time Torah study.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Gafni said that the current situation should be preserved but anyone who is supposed to be in full-time Torah study and is “not learning and exploiting the situation” should be drafted.
A new law for ensuring “a draft for all” must be achieved through agreement, said MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) during a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he chairs, on Monday.
“There is a thin line between majority rule and the subjugation of a minority,” Mofaz said.
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) called for continued dialogue on the matter and for the opening of different courses that would enable haredi soldiers to serve, pointing to what he called a dramatic increase in the numbers of haredim enlisting in recent years.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.