Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman - 16.1.2012
Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 29, 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting Monday that the Tal Law, which allows ultra-Orthodox citizens to defer military service, will not be extended by the government but rather go to a vote in the Knesset.

According to Netanyahu, the Knesset has approximately half a year to find a "just solution that will not divide the country."

Furthermore, Netanyahu stated that he had personally intervened in order to ensure that government housing programs give greater preference to people who have completed military or civilian national service.

Netanyahu insisted that military service be given greater weight in formulas used to determine eligibility for government housing programs, after new criteria presented last week by Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) were criticized as favoring the ultra-Orthodox.

Netanyahu further stated that he intervened in order to ensure that younger couples to “realize the Israeli dream” of purchasing a house.

Under Atias' plan, priority would be given to families with three or more children, while married couples would be given greater priority based on the length of their marriage.

Atias' plan was also criticized for ignoring the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee, which prioritized housing programs for families in which both partners work at least part of the time.

Following Atias' announcement last week, sources at the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry expressed outrage that the housing minister had presented the new criteria to the public without consulting with them first.

Sources at the Prime Minister's Office said on Monday that the weight given to army service or national service would be doubled, while weight granted based on the length of a couple's marriage would be reduced. In addition, a committee led by PMO Director Harel Locker will ensure that housing programs benefit the entire public, and not just the ultra-Orthodox.

However, Netanyahu stopped short of making a requirement that both members of a couple work part of the equation.

Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman praised the decision on Monday to give greater weight to army service, but insisted that the requirement to work must be included in the criteria as well. "If they want to help the ultra-Orthodox sector, let them do that separately," he said.

Read this article in Hebrew