The cabinet voted Sunday to extend the Tal Law on military service for the ultra-Orthodox by another five years in a 21-0 vote, with Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann the lone abstention.
Friedmann criticized the law, which enables yeshiva students to postpone their military service, saying "there is intolerable discrimination between those who serve and those that don't. It is possible to deal with this discrimination by tasking those who don't serve, but we must also significantly improve the salaries of soldiers in compulsory service."
Last year, the High Court of Justice criticized the failure to implement the Tal Law, which was passed in 2002 but never applied.
The cabinet Sunday also approved the creation of a body to oversee a national service program for ultra-Orthodox men and for Arabs, in accordance with the recommendations of the Ivri Commission.
In February 2004, the panel recommended creating a framework under which Haredi men and Arabs could volunteer for national service. The service would entitle them to the same benefits given to women who complete national service and to soldiers in home-front assignments.
Friedmann also criticized this decision, saying that "the system of national service should be rejected because it harms the labor market. Those who do national service constitute a cheap work force that could harm low-wage employees. The existence of such a service could jeopardize the superiority of military service by drawing military service candidates into national service."
The cabinet's decision to move forward on expanding national service may be aimed at showing the court that it is behaving in good faith on the issue of military service for yeshiva students and alternative service for populations that generally do not serve in the army.
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