Daily Israel Report

Lieberman: Not Even One More Hour for Tal Law

FM Avigdor Lieberman says he won't allow the Tal Law to be extended 'even by one hour.'
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/27/2012, 7:22 PM

Avigdor Lieberman
Avigdor Lieberman
Flash 90

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Bateinu) said Monday the Tal Law won't be extended "even by one more hour."

The Supreme Court last Tuesday issued an earthquake ruling overturning the Tal Law, which provided exemptions for hareidi religious men enrolled in Torah institutions from military and national service, as "unconstitutional."

Critics of the ruling, issued in the final days of Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch's tenure, have described it as an intentional "hit and run" ruling by an outgoing judge known for judicial activism.

Israel has no Constitution and Israel's Basic Laws, which the Supreme Court said the Tal Law contradicted, can be changed by a simple majority vote.

Speaking to Israel's Channel 2 Radio, Lieberman said that he hoped a committee will be established to find an efficient way of integrating Israel's hareidi religious community into military and national service.

He also called on Israel's hareidi and Arab publics to cooperate with the committee so they can "become an integral part of Israeli society as a whole."

Lieberman's remarks underscore a deep division in the Likud-led ruling coalition between mainstream Zionist parties and hareidi religious parties over how to deal with Beinisch's final judicial denouement.

Last Thursday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said it would take "at least one year" to implement the Supreme Court's ruling, saying the delay could solely be ascribed to 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.”

Hareidi analysts on Israel's hareidi Radio Kol Hai said last week 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.

However, sources close to the IDF Manpower division told Arutz Sheva that thousands of young hareidi men had registered for Israel's draft following last week's ruling.

It nonetheless remains a contentious and potentially explosive issue in the hareidi sector.

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.

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.), allowed 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.