Knesset Nixes Bills Requiring Haredim to Serve in Army

Legislation that would have required ultra-Orthodox men to do military or civilian national service shot down less than a day after court rejects Tal Law.

The Knesset on Tuesday rejected two private members' bills that would have required young ultra-Orthodox men to do military service or civilian national service. The legislative action comes less than a day after the High Court of Justice struck down the Tal Law, which had given draft deferments to yeshiva students.

Even in advance of the High Court ruling, the two proposed laws, which were introduced by Kadima MKs Yoel Hasson and Nachman Shai, were expected to go down to defeat. The legislation was not directed against the Haredim, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni told the Knesset, but rather as a way to promote unity among the population of the country. "You believe in prayer," she said addressing the ultra-Orthodox directly. "I do, too. You will pray in the army and in basic training, and you will pray in the reserves, because there is no other alternative."

One of the petitioners in this week's court case, Itay Ben-Horin, also said that the challenge to the Tal Law should not be seen as anti-Haredi."You have to be part of Israeli society," said Ben-Horin, referring to the Haredim.

A coalition of groups opposing draft deferments presented their own version of a bill yesterday requiring every citizen to do either military service or other national service. The umbrella group, which included representatives from the so-called "suckers' tent" that had been erected at the Tel Aviv central train station, is advocating an exemption from the draft for up to 1,000 outstanding yeshiva students a year subject to a decision by the defense minister.

The remaining yeshiva students would be required to do national service of equivalent duration to military service and would do 10 days of reserve duty in a national service position until age 45. The bill would also give the highest level of compensation to combat soldiers.

Over the past two days a number of parties, including Yisrael Beiteinu, Kadima, Meretz and Atzmaut, have been developing legislation to replace the Tal Law. The chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, said he had directed his party colleague, David Rotem, who chairs the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, to prepare a new law on the subject of military service.