Analysis / The High Court Ain't What It Used to Be

There's no doubt about it: The High Court of Justice is just not what it once was.

In the words of today's teenagers, the cabinet told the High Court yesterday something like, "So I'm gonna extend the Tal Law. Whatcha gonna do to me?" - and then threw in an "I double-dare you to strike the law down!"

Former court president Aharon Barak wrote in the Tal Law ruling in May that the army service-deferral legislation harms equality in a manner that damages human dignity, by creating favoritism and discrimination.

The Tal Law is an emergency order - a temporary law that must be extended every few years.

This is because the members of the Tal Committee recognized that the arrangement was entirely unjust. Limiting the law time-wise was supposed to ensure that it would succeed and create social change in ultra-Orthodox society.

In practice, during the last four and half years, nothing has happened.

It had been expected that the legislation would now be extended for a year or two to ensure the institution of a civilian service, and that the High Court would agree to that.

Now we can only wonder if the court will strike down the entire law, or only the clause extending it for five years. Maybe it will even stretch the hearings out over many years?

If the law is in fact extended and if the High Court doesn't reject it, it will come as no surprise in five years to discover that it still hasn't been implemented and that nothing has changed.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's office said yesterday that his agreement to the extension was contingent on substantial progress in implementing the law, and that this time, he believes it will actually happen.