Coalition MK says he’ll back Haredi draft law as ‘basis for discussion’ on improving it

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Ohad Tal speaks at the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March, June 5, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)
Ohad Tal speaks at the annual Jerusalem Day Flag March, June 5, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Echoing several other critics of the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law being promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Religious Zionism party MK Ohad Tal says he will vote for the controversial measure, which lowers the age of exemption from mandatory service for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, to create “a basis for discussion” in the Knesset.

“I will vote tonight in favor of applying a law of continuity to [Benny] Gantz’s outline from the previous Knesset so that it can be used as a basis for discussion in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” Tal tells The Times of Israel.

The Knesset is slated to vote tonight on whether to approve the revival of a bill from the previous Knesset dealing with the military service of yeshiva students.

The vote is only on renewing the legislative process where it left off, without requiring the bill’s backers to start from scratch in the current session. If eventually approved, the legislation would lower the age of exemption from mandatory service for Haredi yeshiva students from the current 26 to 21 and “very slowly” increase the rate of ultra-Orthodox conscription.

“We need to explain to the public that this does not mean that the conscription law is being passed tonight — absolutely not. It is only a procedural process that provides a basis for discussion. The content of the law is cast within the framework of the discussions in the committee,” he says, calling on those opposed to the measure to “simply roll up their sleeves, come to the committee in the coming weeks and help us build a law that will truly create change and help recruit those who today are not mobilized to defend the security of the State of Israel.”

Tal says that many of his friends and even his staffers have been called for multiple rounds of reserve duty and are “paying a huge personal, family, financial and mental price” and that it is unfair to place demands on some Israelis “while other sections of the public are exempt.”

But while there is no solution that will lead to enlisting all eligible Haredim today, the process “must start happening,” he says, calling for an overhaul of the “current incentive structure” that keeps ultra-Orthodox out of the IDF.

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