Tal Law expires, leaving behind legal limbo (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 08/01/12)
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The “Tal Law’ officially expired at midnight on Tuesday and now
54,000 yeshiva students who have legally deferred national service
for religious studies are obligated to perform military service.
The law, enacted in 2002, provided a legal framework for full-time
yeshiva students, mainly from the haredi community, to indefinitely
defer military service.
Since no new legislation has been passed by the Knesset to replace
the Tal Law – which was struck down by the High Court of Justice in
February as unconstitutional – the 1949 Military Service Law (amended
in 1986) mandating compulsory military service for all citizens
reaching the age of 18 is now operative.
As a consequence, Defense Minister Ehud Barak now has the legal
responsibility to draft anyone fitting IDF criteria into the army.
This legal state of affairs will continue until the Knesset passes
new legislation to address the issue. The Knesset is currently on its
summer recess and will only reconvene on October 15.
However, the logistical challenges of preparing the army for the mass
enlistment of haredi men, as well as the cumbersome nature of any
legal proceedings, may provide the government with sufficient time to
formulate new legislation before it would be legally required to
physically draft thousands of ultra-Orthodox men.
In light of the new legal status of those who were indefinitely
deferring military service until now, Barak’s office issued a
statement on Tuesday saying that the minister has instructed the IDF
to draw up within a month a “practical proposal” for the
implementation of the 1949 law for haredi youth.
This temporary order will be employed by the Defense Ministry until
the Knesset approves new legislation to replace the Tal Law.
According to Barak’s statement, the IDF proposal “will reflect and
take into consideration the ruling of the High Court of Justice, the
requirements and values of the IDF, the principle of sharing the
burden of national service more equally and the suitability of
individuals for service, as is commonly accepted.”
Although the defense minister is authorized to call up anyone of
military age who is fit for service, he also has the authority to
grant exemptions. Despite this, the High Court of Justice ruled in
1998 that blanket exemptions on a sectarian basis are illegal since
they infringe the principle of equality. Barak will therefore be
unable to address the legal vacuum and practical obstacles of
drafting thousands of haredi men in this way.
Despite this legal obligation, and as acknowledged by draft reform
campaigners, the practical obstacles involved in drafting thousands
of haredi men into the army will preclude their immediate enlistment
in the coming weeks and months.
In his comments, Barak said that in order to achieve the desired
goals of draft equality, the number and capacity of army tracks for
haredi men must be significantly increased and should include
technological positions and service in combat units, the Home Front
Command, the police and the Prisons Service.
He added that the law would be enforced and people who dodge the
draft would be sanctioned.
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz also weighed in on the expiration
of the Tal Law and said that the military was preparing to draft
“We will make plans as needed,” he said during a tour of the Tel
Hashomer Military Induction Center on Tuesday.
Ahead of the expiration of the Tal Law, the “Camp Sucker” campaigners
for IDF draft reform sent a letter to Barak on Tuesday through the
offices of Arad-Ayalon Nachmani Advocates law firm.
The letter stated that “it is incumbent upon the defense minister to
fully implement the principle of equality with regards to the
military draft and the burden of [national] service.” It further said
that Barak’s responsibility for equality in the draft “is a personal
responsibility and not ministerial,” is not dependent on decisions of
the government and that the military draft is “entirely within the
purview of the minister.”
According to attorney Dror Arad- Ayalon, if the campaign movement
does not feel that serious steps are taken in the coming weeks, they
will file a petition with the High Court of Justice against the
defense minister himself, to compel Barak to begin the process of
drafting haredi men of military age.
It seems that Barak’s statements on Tuesday were designed, in part,
to preempt any immediate legal action.
The Military Advocate-General’s Office said that while the petitions
would likely be filed, no haredi youth are slated to be drafted on
August 1, and regardless, it would take time to carry out the entire
enlistment process, which usually begins at least a year prior to a
soldier’s scheduled induction.
In response to Barak’s statement on Tuesday, Arad-Ayalon said that
although the sentiment was correct, at the moment it “ merely
constitutes words” and needs to be followed through with action.
According to attorney Gilad Barnea, who has filed a petition to the
High Court on behalf of the Hiddush religious-freedom lobbying group,
if no serious efforts are made to implement the 1949 Military Service
Law, the defense minister could technically be held in contempt of
court and sanctioned appropriately.
He said, however, that such a situation was unlikely to transpire.
Hiddush’s petition to the High Court demands that the monthly funds
transferred to yeshivot on behalf of its students by the government
under the Tal Law framework must cease immediately on August 1.
According to Hiddush, NIS 30 million is transferred every month to
haredi yeshivot, totalling more than NIS 400 million per year.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report. v(© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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