Judge Turkel: Supreme Court’s decision on Tal Law was ‘too drastic’

Court should have taken a more gradual approach on military service for ultra-Orthodox, says retired justice

Former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Former Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Retired justice Jacob Turkel criticized on Thursday the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to strike down the Tal Law, which granted a deferral and virtual exemption from military service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.

Turkel told Israel Radio that the Court’s ruling was “too drastic,” and that a more gradual and moderate approach should have been taken.

“The High Court’s decision was too drastic a move and it would have been possible to come to a decision that didn’t involve wielding an ax,” he said.

During the interview, the retired judge said the IDF cannot be expected to be ready to induct all the ultra-Orthodox, and the Haredi community cannot be expected to be ready to accept a different way of life.

Turkel added that the ideas behind the Tal Law — which was based on the recommendations of a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Tzvi Tal — were good, and it is a shame that the law’s objectives were not reached.

The Court ruled in February that the Tal Law was unconstitutional. The government has since pledged to replace it with legislation that distributes the burden of military service in a more egalitarian way among the various sectors of Israeli society.

Part of the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz was to quickly legislate an alternative to the Tal Law. The prime minister pledged to pass such a law by the end of July.

Justice Turkel’s term on the bench was characterized by advocacy for individual rights. In 2010 he was appointed by Netanyahu to head an independent commission of inquiry into the Israeli raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed and nine IDF commandos wounded.

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