Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) spoke at the so-called Suckers’ Tent in Jerusalem on Sunday, where he signed a petition calling for universal military or civil service for Israelis. Erdan took the opportunity to slam Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, who visited the protest tent earlier Sunday morning, for his delay in supporting the movement.
“Unfortunately, Mofaz is adopting a policy that I and many others have already been promoting for twelve years, in demonstrations against the Tal Law,” said Erdan.
The first coalition official to visit the camp, Erdan signed the petition to replace the current Tal Law, which virtually exempts yeshiva students from army or national service, with a law that would require all Israeli citizens to participate in military, national or civilian service.
The “Suckers’ Tent” was set up in the Wohl Rose Garden across from the Knesset in Jerusalem on Friday by IDF reserve soldiers and soldiers’ mothers in protest of the exemptions granted by the current law, which is set to expire in late July. The High Court of Justice recently ruled the Tal Law unconstitutional and therefore ineligible for extension.
Signatories to the universal service petition and tent protesters want to prevent the Knesset from passing a similar law that may pass constitutional muster. They are calling for a new legislative model in which exemptions for yeshiva students are severely limited in number if not eliminated altogether.
Public figures including former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Knesset member Geula Cohen and actor Shlomo Vishinsky have signed the petition for mandatory conscription.
Knesset member Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) also visited the site on Sunday and said that the Tal Law expiration provides a rare opportunity to mend “ethical distortions, and to save the only military service model that can enable our existence in this nation.”
Plesner expressed confidence that such a new bill would be passed by the Knesset.
A recent poll conducted by Hiddush, an Israeli NGO that supports the separation of religion and state, surveyed 500 Jewish Israeli adults and found that opinions about the Tal Law were clearly divided along religious lines: 83% of secular Israelis supported the Tal Law’s repeal, and 86% of the ultra-Orthodox opposed it.
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