Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Saturday called for a realistic approach to promoting the recruitment of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the workforce and the army. Speaking at a cultural event in Kfar Saba, he said the enlistment of haredim in the IDF is important, but called their joining the workforce “critical to Israel’s economy.”
“We are looking for a realistic solution that will contribute to a significant increase in the number of army recruits and those who enter the workforce,” said Steinitz. He warned, however, that people who take an aggressive approach to the issue may actually cause a regression in Haredi conscription.
Also on Saturday, MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) warned that “the people’s army will collapse” if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives up on ultra-Orthodox recruitment and goes along with the religious Shas party on the issue. Plesner added that although Netanyahu has not yet accepted the proposals for universal service put forth by Kadima, the centrist party is still hopeful that the prime minister will make the right choice.
Plesner headed the recently disbanded committee that was charged with finding an alternative to the Tal Law, which guided ultra-Orthodox exemptions and recruitment to the army but is set to expire August 1, after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that it was unconstitutional. Since the committee’s demise, Plesner and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) have been meeting, to no avail, in an effort to draft compromise legislation that could be submitted to the Knesset for a vote.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said earlier this week that there was little chance for a Tal Law replacement to be drafted and voted on before the Knesset breaks for its summer vacation. Some political analysts speculate that the Tal Law will be allowed to expire next month and that Defense Minister Ehud Barak will issue an order to maintain the status quo, with Haredi yeshiva students allowed to defer enlistment, until the Knesset can pass alternative legislation in its next session.