Netanyahu promises ‘historical law’ for equal sharing of national service burden

Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz.

By Israel Hayom, Exclusive to

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Prime Minister and Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz have agreed to establish a team to hash out the new law for equality of the national burden, the replacement to the Tal Law, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday.

The law, which will seek to include the ultra-Orthodox and Arab-Israeli sectors into military and national service, will be brought to the cabinet meeting July 15. “The timeline for implementing the law is going to be a challenge, as the army and other institutions are going to need to prepare for the influx of new recruits,” Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Israel Radio on Sunday.

Netanyahu said the proposed Tal Law replacement would provide a basis for a “just sharing of the security burden among all sectors of Israeli society.”

“I will submit a proposal for a historical law that will change the reality of the past 64 years. The law will bring about the sharing of the burden equally by all Israeli citizens. I intend to act responsibly to prevent this historical move from tearing society apart. Our national strength is based on our unity and we must ensure that it is not breached,” Netanyahu said.

At the start of the weekly cabinet session Sunday, Netanyahu told the ministers about his plans to legislate an alternative to the controversial Tal Law that governs the military draft. “Several months ago I decided to introduce a new bill that would stipulate an equal sharing of the burden. I said that what has been can no longer continue; we cannot perpetuate the current situation. The army, society and the economy—they cannot continue moving along this path. I fully relate to the demands put forth by those who serve and their family members, and the vast majority of the public has come to the realization that we must effect change.”

The prime minister also said that his new legislation would usher-in a new era. “Now that 64 years have elapsed we are on the cusp of a move that would cause a dramatic increase in the rate of integration.”

A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday said Netanyahu and Mofaz appointed a joint team including Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon and MK Yohanan Plesner to draft a new law to replace the Tal Law, which expires August 1. According to the statement, professional participants in discussions by the team will include officials of the defense, finance and justice ministries, as well as representatives of national service programs.

The statement closes a turbulent chapter between Netanyahu and Mofaz, who recently sparred after Netanyahu dissolved the Plesner Committee for Equalizing the National Burden.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was an architect of the rapprochement between Netanyahu and Mofaz, said Sunday after an Independence party meeting, “I view the new law of burden-sharing as a historic opportunity that will advance the principle of unity among Israelis and ensure a just sharing of the burden. This is a time for decisions and we must all join the campaign to implement the law. The new law must be based on the Plesner Committee’s principles, while taking into account Israel Defense Forces requirements and other considerations.”

Netanyahu adopted all of the major recommendations of the Plesner committee, except for the one regarding Arab Israelis. Netanyahu wants to include the Arab sector into national service. A Likud spokesman said on Sunday that the Likud had unanimously approved the Plesner committee’s main principles, which include the following:

  • Implementation of the “service for all” principle for all Israelis, including the Arab sector.
  • Personal responsibility for service.
  • Additional benefits for those who serve, including less time serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
  • The establishment of an efficient and deterring enforcement mechanism for any infraction of the law, including draft dodging or falsifying personal details in relation to the draft.
  • Concerning ultra-Orthodox men who are eligible for the draft, principles of the committee will be implemented immediately.
  • The Israeli Arab population will also be bound by the principle of “service for all” and the Likud believes there is no reason to postpone implementation of this principle for Israeli Arabs after the matter is significantly elaborated.

The Tal Law, enacted a decade ago, effectively exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews who opt to study in yeshivas, from military service. The High Court of Justice declared the law unconstitutional and said it must be replaced by August 1 with a new law that does not discriminate against those who do serve in the military.

The Tal Law replacement proposal will require the support of Likud, Kadima, Independence and New National Religious Party MKs, which add up to 63 members of Knesset, to become law. The expected number of votes in favor of the proposal does not include some members of Kadima who expressed opposition to the replacement law.

Netanyahu’s advisors pointed out July 8 that the prime minister did not disband the Plesner committee because he was at odds with its conclusions but due to the resignations of most of its members, which he believed would cause its recommendations to be rejected by the Knesset.

Although Plesner’s draft is acceptable to Netanyahu, including the matter of imposing personal sanctions on yeshiva students who refuse to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, Netanyahu was expected to make some changes to the committee’s recommendations to prevent the bolting of ultra-Orthodox parties from the coalition.

Among other things, Netanyahu was said to favor an implementation of the law over more than five years, as recommended by the committee, and the drafting of Israeli Arabs into national service as well. Despite haredi opposition, however, Netanyahu may agree to the age of 22 as the maximum age at which men may be drafted to the IDF. Ultra-Orthodox parties have demanded the age be set to 28.

Another issue Netanyahu was also said to support is the imposition of personal sanctions on draft dodgers who do not belong to ultra-Orthodox communities.

Barak, who was involved in efforts to mediate between Netanyahu and Mofaz, expressed satisfaction on July 8 over the agreements between the party leaders.