Knesset Panel: State Has Failed to Implement Tal Law

Lawmakers' report calls for significant expansion of IDF's ultra-Orthodox units.

The state has failed to implement the Tal Law, a 2002 law intended to increase the rate of military service among the ultra-Orthodox, according to a report submitted yesterday to Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima).

The report will be submitted on Wednesday as the Knesset's response to a High Court of Justice petition regarding the Tal Law.

"The implementation of the Tal Law has failed because there is no more equality than in 2002; there is less," said MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima), who heads the subcommittee that compiled the report.

The report calls for a significant expansion of the Israel Defense Forces units designated for the ultra-Orthodox and more national service options for this group. It also calls for greater options for reserve duty performed in national service settings rather than military ones.

All the same, Plesner said the situation has improved somewhat in the last two years.

"In 2010, some 400 were drafted to [the ultra-Orthodox army unit] Nahal Haredi and 500 were in other frameworks, coming to 12.8 percent of that draft year," he said. "That's far from the goal, but it's a lot better than the place we were at two years ago."

The Tal Law calls for an expansion of Israel Defense Forces units designated for the ultra-Orthodox, like Nahal Haredi, and gives 22-year-old yeshiva students a year to decide whether to continue studying Torah or to get a job. Those who decide to join the workforce can choose between a shortened military service of 16 months and national service.

"The Haredi population can serve in the IDF, must serve in the IDF, and is capable of performing significant service," said Mofaz, who previously served as IDF chief of staff and defense minister. "Bringing the Arab and Haredi populations closer to serving in the IDF is a national mission. We must not create alternative tracks that, year after year, hamper IDF recruitment."

MKs Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and Nissim Zeev (Shas), the two ultra-Orthodox members of the seven-member subcommittee that compiled the report, refused to sign it. Gafni called it a political document intended to attack Haredim and damage the Netanyahu government rather than a professional position paper.

"We have no right to exist as a nation without those who study Torah, and we have no right to this land without them," said Gafni.