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Netanyahu to cabinet: Reform Tal Law ´responsibly´ (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON, JERUSALEM POST STAFF 04/22/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=267083 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The Tal Law will be reformed in a "responsible" manner to address the social and manpower problems it has caused, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The Tal Law, which provided the legal framework for haredi (ultra- Orthodox) men to indefinitely defer military service, was ruled illegal by the High Court of Justice in February.

During Sunday’s meeting, Netanyahu reminded the cabinet that he had “publicly declared” that the Tal Law would be replaced even before the High Court ruling, referring to statements he made back in January.

The nature of the prime minister’s comments in January were somewhat ambiguous however, and the Prime Minister refused to clarify at the time whether the government wanted to merely reform the law or scrap it completely.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told the cabinet that the new law would create a "more equal, just and fair balance for the state of Israel and all of its citizens, both Arabs and Jews.”

He nevertheless emphasized the importance of “not pitting one sector of society against another,” in reference to the strident criticism leveled by Kadima and other opposition parties at the Tal Law and the haredi community for the low level of military service participation in the ultra-Orthodox sector.

“This is important now and at all times,” the prime minister said.

Earlier, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz called on Netanyahu “not to bury his head in the sand,” and to stop stalling reform of the Tal Law.

Speaking at Jerusalem’s new “Camp Sucker” protest site in the Whol Rose Park opposite the Knesset, Mofaz stated that Kadima would propose a new law at the start of the new Knesset session, but emphasized that the proposal would “not be a law against anyone - we call on everyone to serve like our children serve.”

“Military service is not a burden, rather it is a great privilege,” the Kadima party leader continued. “But it is also an obligation and it is time that the obligation apply to everyone.”

Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner, who was chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense working group for implementing the Tal Law, told The Jerusalem Post that those who insist on obligatory military or national service for all are “watching the prime minister closely” to ensure that the new legislation is not simply “Tal Law Two,” to appease the haredi parties without solving the issues.

“If the new proposals don’t include mandatory service then we will assemble a coalition of Zionist parties to pass a different law,” Plesner said.

On Thursday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin met with senior haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman saying that both sides need to act responsibly in order to reach “agreement and understanding.”

Rivlin has previously emphasized the importance for the government to reach agreement, arguing that coercive measures to mandate obligatory service would result in thousands of haredim going to jail instead of the army.

Earlier on Sunday, Plesner told dozens of protestors camped out in the Wohl Rose Park, that the only way to ensure the country’s future was to maintain the IDF as the “people’s army,” in which everyone serves.

“Especially during the week between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, it is critical that we remember that the model of the people´s army is in danger of collapse,” Plesner said. “The annulment of the Tal Law has provided us with a one-time opportunity to fix the distortion of our values and to save the only model for military and national service which can preserve our existence in this land.”

The Tal Law will expire on August 1 so new legislation to replace it must be drafted during the Knesset’s summer session. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/22/12)

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