Shas, UTJ won't sit on 'Tal Law' committee

Yishai: Those who study Torah aren't subject to negotiations on quotas, basic rights; UTJ MKs not participating either.

Eli Yishai 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eli Yishai 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
MKs from the ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas have said they will not participate or send representatives to the committee established to present proposals for replacing the “Tal Law.”
Leading UTJ MKs Ya’acov Litzman and Moshe Gafni both confirmed on Monday that neither they nor any other MKs from the faction would join the committee.
According to sources within UTJ, leading rabbis in the haredi community have instructed the party’s MKs not to take part in the hearings due to ideological opposition to a law which will encourage drafting haredim into the army.
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a statement saying that, following consultations with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party would also not be sending a representative to the committee.
“Those who study Torah are not subject to negotiations on quotas and on their basic rights to study the Torah,” Yishai said. “Their contribution to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel is well known and clear to any believing Jew.”
Yishai also said that Shas would produce its own recommendations on the share of the military burden and IDF draft reform and present it to the public.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), former head of the working group to implement the Tal Law, will lead the committee, which is expected to convene for the first time in the coming days.
Speaking to the Knesset Channel on Monday, Plesner noted that the committee’s responsibilities present a historic opportunity that should not be wasted on a temporary compromise. However, the implementation of new legislation replacing the Tal Law will be implemented in stages, he said.
“To build frameworks is a big mission, but we need to place them in a legal framework and allocate adequate resources in order to achieve these goals.”
Boaz Nol, a leading activist in the IDF draft reform movement, said he was disappointed that the haredi parties are not taking part in a process that is now part of the national consensus.
He also said that those lobbying for the haredim to be drafted cannot understand Shas’s stance.
“Shas MKs have served in the IDF, their children serve and the people who vote for Shas serve,” Nol said. “Yishai and his party should be leading this protest movement, not opposing it.”
Gafni, who is also Finance Committee chairman, said in an interview with the haredi newspaper Yated Ne’eman that Rabbi Aharon Leib Schteinman – the de facto leader of the non-hassidic ultra-Orthodox community while Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv is still hospitalized – has instructed party members to quit the coalition if any attempt is made to hinder the studies of yeshiva students.
“Any attempt to prevent Torah students from studying would constitute a severe injury to the soul of the Jewish people,” Gafni told the newspaper. “We wouldn’t stay for one moment in the coalition if they try and do this...We cannot compromise in any way.”
However, UTJ sources have said that the prime minister will keep party leaders abreast of the committee’s developments.
Gafni also rejected the idea of a quota for the number of students permitted to gain exemptions from military or civilian service.
Likud sources have said new legislation may instead stipulate a minimum number of haredim to be drafted into military or national service every year, which will be increased annually.
Nol said that this kind of proposal would only be acceptable if it was part of a program whose goal is obligatory IDF or civilian service for all.
“The whole of Bnei Brak can’t be drafted tomorrow, so passing a law to reach this goal in stages is fine,” Nol said, “As long as it is not cover for a ‘Tal Law 2,’ where most haredim will continue to evade the draft.”