Yishai: One Year Before Tal Law Phased Out

Interior Minister Eli Yishai insists the government needs at least a year to phase out the overturned Tal Law.

Gabe Kahn.,

Minister Eli Yishai
Minister Eli Yishai
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Thursday said the Tal Law would be extended another year despite its having been struck down by Israel's Supreme Court.

Yishai said the delay in implementing Tuesday’s decision by the Supreme Court's rested squarely on the shoulders of the Finance Ministry.

“Two battalions are waiting to be drafted, but the IDF isn’t drafting them because of a lack of funds,” Yishai wrote in the Shas daily Yom LaYom. “There are hundreds more waiting to enlist in national service programs.”

MK Yohanan Plesner, chairman of the Knesset working group for the implementation of the Tal Law, and long time advocate of draft reform, called Yishai’s demands for a year to draft legislation “unfounded and unnecessary.”

Plesner contends a new law could be drafted within two months.

Activists who insist the Tal Law be immediately annulled instead of gradually phased out say waiting is unacceptable.

"It appears that the Interior Minister does not face the fact that what was will be no more!" the Movement Against the Tal Law  said in a statement. "It is not possible that a cabinet minister will openly defy the Supreme Court and continue ' business as usual.'"

"Yishai seems unable to face the fact that he serves a public that carries the burden of military and national service, and will no longer accept that the narrow political considerations of one sector will place the entirety of that burden on the other sectors.”

"The Tal Law must be canceled immediately and be replaced with a law that equally distributes the burden of service. We do not accept claims that time is needed for a new law. The Knesset has formulated and passed significant laws in a single day!"

Critics of the push to annul the Tal Law note the IDF does not have a sufficiently robust program in place to integrate large numbers of hareidi men at one time.

They argue such a framework – like the Hesder programs for religious Zionist men or brigades such as the Nahal Hareidi and religious vocational IDF programs such as Shachar Kachol – would have to be created before large numbers of hareidi men could be successfully integrated into the IDF.

Hareidi analysts on Israel's hareid Radio Kol Hai said that an attempt to enforce instant induction for hareidi yeshiva students, rather than a gradual plan, would only fill the prisons with hareidi yeshiva students.

Due to the extant framework for religious Zionist men, youth from those communities now enlist at a higher per capita rate than other segments of the population, and since they volunteer for combat and commando units in large numbers, are swelling the IDF officer corps.

Last year it was reported roughly half of the IDF junior officer corps were religious.

The Tal Law, named for national religious Supreme Court Judge Tzvi Tal (ret.), himself a bereaved IDF father,  who headed the committee that drafted the law, allows yeshiva students over the age of 22 to take a year off their studies in order to obtain professional training or work experience without being drafted.

After that year, the students must commit to abbreviated army service, a full year of national service, or return to full-time Torah  studies. The law was passed by the Knesset in July 2002 and, in 2007, was extended by an additional five years. Critics claimed the numbers inducted through the Tal Law were too small to be significant, but others point out that the numbers rose significantly every year.