Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday announced that he was postponing the planned government discussion on the extension of the Tal Law, aimed at regulating yeshiva students' exemption from IDF service.
Objections raised by ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Ehud Barak most likely played a central part in Netanyahu's decision. The prime minister postponed the debate so that he will have time to reexamine the issue.
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On Monday Netanyahu announced that the cabinet intends to extend its validity by an additional five years.
At a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, he 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. The numbers have tripled since 2008," said Netanyahu.
The Tal Law allows yeshiva students over the age of 22 to take a year off their studies in order to obtain professional training or work experience without being drafted. After this year, they must commit to an abbreviated army service or a full year of national service or to return to full-time studies.
The law was passed by the Knesset in July 2002, and in 2007 was extended by an additional five years.
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.
On Tuesday 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.
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