The political storm surrounding the Tal Law, which gives yeshiva students an exemption from IDF military service, gained strength on Monday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the cabinet intends to extend its validity by an additional five years.
Pending the cabinet's approval, the coalition is expected to vote in favor of the extension when it next comes up for a vote. The latter is scheduled for the summer.
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At a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, Netanyahu presented the statistics for haredi enlistment in recent years and said that the decision will be brought before the ministers for approval next Sunday.
"In 2011 there were 2,400 who enlisted in the military and civic service. Out of that 1,282 enlisted into the IDF. That's a 40% rise when compared to last year. From 2008 the numbers triple.
MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) salmmed the plan: "The PM's Office cynically presents these half truths and facts taken out of context and all in order to justify the extension of a law that allows this immoral reality to continue. One, which in a few years will lead to a situation where half of Israel's population evades military service."
The Israeli Forum for Equal Service condemned the cabinet's intentions to once again extend the law and claimed that the law has failed. "It is sad to see that the prime minister is ignoring a petition signed by 50 major generals and lieutenant colonels which was sent to him with a demand to change the law," was the forum's official response.
'Netanyahu betraying voters'
They added: "With one hand Netanyahu talks of war against external enemies while the other hand crumbles the military and Israeli society from within."
The forum also mentioned that the high Court had harshly criticized the law and warned that should the law continue to permit army dodging then "in a few years no one will be left to defend Israel."
Last week a group of high school students put together a petition calling on the country's leaders not to go ahead with the law's ratification. The student behind the initiative, Yotam Berger said Monday: "On behalf of over 3,000 high school students … we are shocked and angry over Netanyahu's decision.
"It would seem that Netanyahu is disconnected from the voter pool he leans on and is betraying his voting public. We are committed to acting against this discrimination which Netanyahu chooses to institutionalize and will act so that the others know Netanyahu is betraying them."
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during an Independence faction meeting that "The Tal Law hasn't fulfilled the hopes we had for it 10 years ago. In my opinion the right thing to do is to extend it by one year and in the mean time find a new solution."
First of all, the IDF needs to be able to decide which people it wishes to recruit. Then, the others will need to volunteer for one year's national or civil service…and this should be true for the haredim as well as the secular citizens who do not wish to, or are not recruited to the IDF, as well as the Arab citizens," Barak said.
Boaz Fyler contributed to the report
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