PM plans to extend ‘Tal Law’ for 5 years

Law designed to increase the numbers of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students serving in the army widely seen to have failed.

Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Religious haredi IDF soldiers praying 521 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is going to ask the cabinet to approve the extension of the “Tal Law” for another five years, he said on Monday.
Netanyahu said in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the decision will be brought for ministerial approval on Sunday.
The Tal Law, originally instituted in 2000, was designed to increase the numbers of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students serving in the army, and ultimately joining the workforce, by encouraging them to participate in some minimal form of national service after the age of 22.
The law is widely seen to have failed, however, since very few ultra-Orthodox men have taken advantage of the terms of the law. According to IDF statistics, 2,000 haredi soldiers were serving in the army in 2011.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who is chairman of the Knesset working group for the implementation of the Tal Law but opposes the way in which it is carried out, heavily criticized the decision, calling it a “heavy blow” against those pursuing the goal of all sectors of society equally bearing the burden of national service.
“In just another few years, almost half the Israeli population will be exempted from military service,” Plesner said, calling the current situation immoral. “I intend to draft the Zionist forces in the Knesset against the pact of Netanyahu and the haredim, in order to enforce a change in policies and legislation to rescue the value of equality for those bearing the burden [of military service].”
The Tal Law allows ultra- Orthodox men studying full-time in yeshiva 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 unpaid national civilian service.
Before the Tal Law, yeshiva students who stopped studying full-time were immediately conscripted.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz also damned the decision, calling the Tal Law “a miserable farce.”
“It has failed by any standard, and for a long time now is basically a tool used to validate the widespread evasion of military service by the haredim.”
The director of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, Rabbi Uri Regev, called on coalition members Israel Beiteinu and Independence to “torpedo” the extension of the law, saying any extension longer than a year will be a reward for failure and encourage further draft evasion.