Lieberman: Tal Law Issue Could Bring Down Gov't

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned a solution to the Tal Law impasse must be found - or the gov't could fall.

Gabe Kahn.,

Israel news photo: Flash 90
"The Supreme Court decision to overturn the Tal Law threatens the stability of the government coalition," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio on Thursday.

Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Liberman called for a "smart" solution that will create "equal opportunities" for all sectors. 

Various factions have offered competing alternatives to Tal Law, which deals with the issue of yeshiva exemptions in the IDF, after its partial implementation was deemed an abrogation of Israel's so-called Basic Law of Human Dignity and Freedom, which mandates equal treatment for all citizens by the Supreme Court.

Critics of the ruling note that Israel has no constitution and that the Jewish state's Basic Laws can be changed by a simple majority vote.

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.

“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 LeYom. “There are hundreds more waiting to enlist in national service programs.” This, he emphasized, is without hareidi induction.

Proponents of annuling the Tal Law slammed Yishai, saying he was stalling. 

A statement from the Movement Against the Tal Law said, "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!"

Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, one of the leading authorities in the hareidi public, called the decision to overturn the Tal Law "an uprooting of religion" and called for uncompromising opposition to it.

Rabbi Aurbach, who penned a letter that appeared as an advertisement, read: "We are expressing our opinion regarding the terrible decree to hurt the heart of Judaism, by those who are thinking of recruiting the Yeshiva boys, G-d forbid, this shall not come to pass in Israel."

However, many religious Jews actively seek service in the IDF.

Critics of the push to annul the Tal Law note the IDF does not have a sufficiently large and varied 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.

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 are swelling the IDF officer corps.

The Tal Law, named for religious Zionist Supreme Court Judge Tzvi Tal (ret.), himself a bereaved IDF parent, 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. Tal stated that he believed that only a gradually implemented solution could be accepted peacefully and wanted to avoid confrontation.

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. 

The exemption for Torah students was begun during the days of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, who acceded to the request of the Chazon Ish, the revered head of hareidi Jewry at the time of the establishment of the state.

The Chazon Ish argued there was a pressing and recognized need to reestablish yeshiva learning after the murder of so many European Torah scholars in the Holocaust. Yeshivas flourished in Israel as a result.

Critics say that the large number of yeshiva students exempted today was far from Ben Gurion's intention, and that even if it was his intention it is no longer necessary. Others argue that Israel has become the world center for in depth Torah study because of the historic agreement.