Netanyahu backs away from 5-year Tal Law extension

Turn around appears to be a result of pressure from coalition partners; Plesner calls for new legislation.

Haredi soldier 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Haredi soldier 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would discuss with his coalition partners the appropriate length of time by which to extend the Tal Law, which is aimed at increasing ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF, and then bring the decision for government approval.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the law would be extended for five years.RELATED:
PM plans to extend ‘Tal Law’ for 5 years
A lack of support from his coalition partners appears to be the reason behind the prime minister’s volte-face.
On Tuesday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the law should not be extended for longer than a year, during which time new legislation should be drawn up to deal with the low level of ultra-Orthodox participation in national service programs.
Barak’s Independence faction praised Netanyahu for backing away from a five-year extension and stated that at its next faction meeting, party leader Barak will present a proposal for new legislation.
Independence chairwoman MK Einat Wilf said the new law would see all citizens sharing the burden of national service in an equitable manner and abolish exemptions from national service due to religious studies, thereby freeing all Israeli citizens to join the work force following the end of their service.
Israel Beiteinu also said it would oppose a five-year extension. A spokesman said on Sunday that the Knesset faction was waiting for the prime minister to sit down with party leaders to discuss alternatives.
The Tal Law, enacted in 2000, was designed to increase enlistment in the army among ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, who would then be able to join the work force. It allows those studying full-time in yeshivot to postpone mandatory military service every year until age 22, when they have a year to decide whether or not to take up one of two options: four months of military service followed by annual reserve duty, or a year of national civilian service.
Despite its moderate terms, IDF recruitment of ultra-Orthodox men remains extremely low. Following Netanyahu’s remarks about the law on on Sunday, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) described it as “a failure by any standard.”
According to statistics from the Prime Minister’s Office, 2,361 ultra- Orthodox men were drafted into national service programs in 2011, with more than 1,200 of those enlisting in the army. The PMO claimed that this represented a 284- percent increase over haredi enlistment in 2008, when the current government took office.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who chairs the Knesset working group for the law’s implementation but advocates new legislation, said the battle against the law would not be won until it was completely rejected.
“Because the expiration date of the law is approaching in the coming months, we demand from the government that it bring new legislation to the Knesset for approval, which will include a different arrangement to promote a vision of ‘mandatory service for all,’” Plesner said.