"The solution needs to be accepted by society and based on tolerance and understanding," wrote Chief Justice Aharon Barak of the Supreme Court in his decision to uphold the Tal Law, which regulates military conscription for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.
The verdict does what many High Court decisions of the last few years have done: it takes the question of whether or not to draft yeshiva students out of the hands of the court and places it back in the political and social arenas.
The Tal Law established a program to integrate yeshiva youths into the workforce following the completion of their studies. At the age of 22, a yeshiva youth has the right to embark on a sort of a 'decision year,' during which he can work or study without getting drafted. At the end of that year, he can pursue army or civil service, or return to the yeshiva.
The fact that the law was not annulled can be considered a major victory for the Tal Commission attorneys who drafted it and worked to word a law that would successfully stand the test of the High Court.
In his decision, Barak wrote, "Had we ruled on the petitions based on the situation today, we would declared it invalid."
The law's success lies in its temporary nature - the Knesset must reconsider it every five years - and the conditioning of its successful implementation upon social change in the ultra-Orthodox sector. In the ruling, Barak criticizes the government, which essentially failed in the implementation of the Tal Law. "The law was not given a worthy opportunity to realize its goals. This should be lamented."
The criticism is directed at the Finance Ministry, which failed to establish a civil service for ultra-Orthodox men and at the Defense Ministry, which demands 23-year-olds leaving yeshivas to complete army service almost in its entirety.
Barak attaches a warning to the ruling: "The ultra-Orthodox, whose fate is in the hands of the law, must take advantage of the time that remains in order to bring about a change in the existing course. If a change is not made, there is a serious chance that the law will become unconstitutional."
The Tal Law is a temporary law which demands an extension every five years. It is thus easy to predict when the next petitions against it will be sumbitted to the High Court - in exactly one year, when it is reapproved by the Knesset.
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