Cabinet Expected to Extend Tal Law Today

The cabinet will vote today to extend the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer their military service. It will also approve 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 on the issue.

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.

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'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. The cabinet must decide on the duration of the extension of the Tal Law. Shas wants a five-year extension, the maximum allowed by law, but a shorter extension is considered more likely.