High Court annuls controversial Tal Law in historic decision (ISRAEL HAYOM) Edna Adato, Yehuda Shlezinger, Shlomo Cesana, Lilach Shoval and The Associated Press 02/22/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
Judges headed by outgoing Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch rule that law
exempting ultra-Orthodox men from army service is unconstitutional •
Knesset should simply correct flaws in the current law, says incoming
Chief Justice Asher Grunis • Prime Minister Netanyahu: New law to
divide the burden of army service equally.
In a historic ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday abolished
the Tal Law, which was drafted to encourage young ultra-Orthodox men
to voluntarily enlist in the Israel Defense Forces but in reality
allowed tens of thousands to dodge military service. In a majority
ruling, of six to three, the panel of judges headed by outgoing Chief
Justice Dorit Beinisch ruled that the law is unconstitutional and
cannot be extended in its current form.
The Knesset ratified the Tal Law in 2002 in an effort to encourage
ultra-Orthodox men to enlist in the IDF or for national service,
while exempting those who choose to study Torah full-time. It was
established to address the imbalance in sharing the burden of army
service in Israel, but the court ruled that the law, in fact,
perpetuates inequality. The High Court ruled that the law will expire
on Aug. 1 of this year. If the Knesset doesn’t pass a law to replace
it by that date, young haredim (ultra-Orthodox men) will be required
to enlist in the IDF.
Incoming Chief Justice Asher Grunis, who opposed abolishing the law
and was in the minority ruling, wrote that in reality the mass
enlistment of haredim is unlikely to happen. Another seemingly more
realistic plan, wrote Grunis, was for the Knesset to draft another
version that repairs the existing law’s flaws and resolves the issue
“It’s an illusion to expect that judicial findings will lead to the
enlistment of haredim in the IDF and to their assimilation into the
workforce,” Grunis said. He went on to say that there was no
justification for overruling a Knesset law in which the majority
grants the minority a privilege.
The High Court’s verdict effectively accepts a string of appeals
submitted in 2007 against the Knesset’s decision to extend the Tal
Law for another five years. Over the years, the court has repeatedly
discussed the appeals and has also examined the enlistment rate of
haredim to the IDF. Among those who have filed appeals with the High
Court are Maj. (ret.) Yehuda Ressler, attorney Itai Ben-Horin, the
Movement for Quality Government in Israel, former MKs Avraham Poraz
(Hetz), Yossi Beilin (Meretz), Haim Oron (Meretz) and Avshalom Vilan
In 2005 the state admitted that the law was a failure, because only a
few dozen haredi men had elected to enlist in the IDF. Recent data
has shown that 45,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis shirked their army or
national service duties in 2005, and by 2010 that number was up to
About a year after the state’s admission, a court ruled that the Tal
Law contradicted the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, meant to
protect human rights in Israel, and impinges on the rights of those
who do serve. Despite all this, however, the law was extended for a
year and a half to further examine it. An additional year-and-a-half
extension was then granted, followed by the five-year extension that
will end Aug. 1.
Beinisch emphasized that “at the core of the [Tal] Law’s creation was
the hope it would lead to a social process in which – even without
being required by law – haredim would choose to serve in the army or
national civil service. However, the hopes pinned on the law were
Those in the majority opinion included justices Miriam Naor, Elyakim
Rubinstein, Esther Hayut, Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel. The
dissenters included Grunis, Eliezer Rivlin and Edna Arbel.
Beinisch pointed out that an analysis of the numbers is proof that
the law failed. For example, in 2010, only 600 haredi men chose to
enlist via one of the specialized army programs the IDF was required
by law to create. “More haredim choose the ‘Torah study as
profession’ path over the army or national service path,” Beinisch
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said, “The situation in which a blanket
exemption from military service is granted to an increasingly large
sector disproportionately impedes on the rights of Israeli citizens
who are required to serve in the army and do so.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the dramatic decision,
saying, “As I had already announced prior to the High Court’s
decision, the Tal Law in its current form will not continue to exist.
In the coming months we will draft a new law that will bring about a
just change in the sharing of the burden for all sectors of Israeli
Netanyahu made an announcement in late January about drafting a law
to replace the Tal Law, following a meeting in the Knesset with IDF
reservists who oppose extending it.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said “The Tal Law, after 10 years, did
not meet expectations and didn’t lead to the required change in
regards to equality and expanding the circle of those fulfilling
civic obligations.” Barak said a new law must be drafted quickly in
order to ensure that the civic burden is shared equally by Israelis.
According to a proposal by the defense minister, a quota would be set
for 2,000-3,000 “Torah prodigies” who would be exempt from service
based on the “Torah study as profession” principle. All the rest will
join the national service and then the workforce.
Meanwhile, an umbrella organization consisting of 40 social justice
groups who have opposed the Tal Law proposed a law of its own on
Wednesday. According to the proposal, within fiver years every
citizen that reaches 18 years of age will be required by law to serve
either in the military, national or civil service. Similar to Barak´s
proposal, a quota for Torah prodigies who can be exempt will be
fixed. The state would also provide bonuses for those who do military
service. The bonuses will be based on the length and type of service
one chooses to do. The group also suggests creating a civil service
authority which would be under the auspices of the prime minister,
who would be responsible for implementing the law and making sure it
was being enforced.
Science and Technology Minister Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz (New
National Religious Party), whose ministry heads the National Civilian
Service administration, announced Wednesday that he will present the
government with an alternative plan to promote an equal sharing of
the national and social burden.
Hershkowitz said his plan would encourage the assimilation of haredim
in military and civilian service, and finally in the work force. The
changes the haredi community has gone through over the last decade,
said Hershkowitz, require making the proper adaptations.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel praised the High
Court’s decision, saying, “A day that sees the abolishment of a law
that discriminates between citizens is a day of celebration for the
state of Israel as a Jewish-democratic state, and an important day
for people in Israel.”
Netanyahu’s top religious coalition partner says Israel’s government
won’t be shaken by the law’s annulment.
A representative for ultra-Orthodox Shas said Wednesday the party is
confident yeshiva students would continue to pursue religious studies
instead of serving, adding that officials will be able to draft a new
military exemption deal that would meet the court’s standards.
Tuesday’s court ruling raised concerns of a coalition crisis but Shas
spokesman Yakov Betzalel said he doesn’t “see it in the offing.”
The Tal Law, ironically, was initially created because of a High
Court ruling that it was not within the defense minister’s rights to
determine a blanket policy of military exemptions for yeshiva
students. As a result, Ehud Barak, who was prime minister and defense
minster at the time (1999), ordered the formation of a committee,
headed by retired judge Tzvi Tal, to examine the matter and suggest
proposals to the Knesset.
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