Tal Law Set to Expire Wednesday

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- With the Tal Law set to expire on August 1, Haredi Jews theoretically may be drafted for compulsory military duty from Wednesday on.

The Tal Law, in effect since 2002, was meant to bring more Haredi youth into the Israel Defense Forces by allowing them to defer service while enrolled in yeshivot (Torah seminaries). But the majority of ultra-Orthodox youth deferred service indefinitely.

Today around 54,000 Haredi youth are enrolled fulltime in yeshivot. The government provides around 13 million shekels a month to these students, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The issue of equal distribution of service, which also includes Arabs holding Israeli identity cards, is not an easy fix in either sector.

It was this issue specifically that torpedoed the six-week-old unity government. Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and the overwhelming majority of his faction rejected Likud's proposal -- formulated by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon -- to enlist the Haredi sector incrementally.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday the IDF has been preparing for the past year to increase Haredi enlistment with all of its unique requirements.

For the next three months, the IDF will draft a predetermined number of 18-year-old ultra-Orthodox men and process their paperwork without calling them up to active duty.

In the interim, the IDF will continue preparations to increase the number of Haredi soldiers until new legislation is passed requiring all eligible men to serve the three-year compulsory duty.

Barak said the Defense Ministry would establish a committee to draft a temporary solution until a bill is passed.

Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin spoke out strongly against drafting Arab youth into the IDF.

At an Iftar meal (breaking the Ramadan fast) in Kafr Qara Monday evening, Rivlin said "any sensible person understands that one cannot draft the Arab sector" and that "any such call is tinted with hypocrisy and even malevolence," YNet reported.

"These calls are populist at best and carry a tone of incitement at worst," Rivilin told Arab business leaders and council heads attending the dinner. "We must not allow these provocations to undermine the opportunity to encourage the Arab public into civil service."

Rivlin would like to see Arab youth fulfilling national service in civil programs that benefit their communities. "The Arab sector needs manpower and young volunteers can support that cause," he said.

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