'Tal Law set to expire, draft for all must begin'

Leading campaign group for national-service draft reform reminds PM, defense minister the Tal Law will expire within 48 hours.

Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
Haredi IDF soldiers Tal Law 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Handout .)
The Council for Military Service Equality, a leading campaign group for national service-draft reform, issued a statement on Monday “to remind the prime minister and the defense minister” that the Tal Law will expire within 48 hours, after which they will have to “begin to draft all 18-year-olds into the army,” including from the haredi (ultra- Orthodox) community.
Since 2002 the Tal Law has provided the legal framework for full-time yeshiva students to defer national service, but it expires on August 1 with no law to replace it.
This means that the 1949 Law for Security Service – which mandates military service for all citizens at the age of 18 – will be incumbent on yeshiva students as well.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that in light of the failure to replace the Tal Law, the draft would be widened, once the law expires, to include haredi men “on the basis of preparatory work done by the IDF over the past year to prepare for increased haredi enlistment,” which the government had requested.
It seems unlikely, however, that the 54,000 full- time yeshiva students who are currently deferring their military service, or the several thousand haredi men turning 18 this year, will be drafted on August 1.
Barak has already stated that the Defense Ministry is forming a special committee to draft – within three months – a temporary order to fill the legal vacuum until the Knesset passes a new law to deal with the issue.
But groups campaigning for IDF draft reform have threatened that if haredi men are not drafted they will file a stream of lawsuits to the High Court of Justice against the Defense Ministry demanding that it adhere to the 1949 law.
In its statement on Monday, the Council for Military Service Equality added that the budget currently being drafted does not include an increase in funds for the army to draft large numbers of haredim. The council said this was a deliberate step which will be answered “on the ground” and through legal channels.
The religious freedom lobby group Hiddush along with the Free Israel movement sent letters to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and the government’s legal adviser stating that come August 1 the transfer of any funds to yeshiva students on the basis of the Tal Law will be illegal. Every month NIS 13 million are transferred to yeshiva students from the state amounting to some NIS 400 million a year. The organizations have also filed a petition with the High Court of Justice to prevent the funds being transferred after the law expires.