Barring a last-minute crisis, a joint proposal for a law that will replace the Tal Law granting military and national service exemptions to the haredim will be presented on Wednesday to the government for approval. Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon and MK Yohanan Plesner, appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz to formulate the proposal, will pass on any unresolved issues to Netanyahu and Mofaz for resolution before the paper is presented.
One sticking point in the formulation of the new law remains the issue of personal penalties for yeshiva students who refuse to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces or civilian service.
Plesner met Rabbi Haim Drukman, founder of the hesder yeshiva program, on Tuesday, and was encouraged by the rabbi's confirmation that the religious Zionist public will support the new law. Drukman, an Israel Prize recipient, chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva Center and head of Yeshivat Or Etzion, is believed to have considerable influence among religious communities.
According to Plesner, in addition to Likud, Kadima and Independence, the New National Religious Party will also support the new law, which will ensure it a majority of votes in the Knesset.
Joint governmental teams worked intensively on Tuesday on a draft acceptable to all parties involved and the proposal is scheduled to be presented to the government next week for approval. The thirty-page paper, which is based on conclusions of the disbanded Plesner committee, with several amendments, includes all necessary mechanisms to implement the law, meaning which tasks will be assigned to which ministries. The teams were said to be continuing their work to refine the proposal and resolve issues that still remain open.
Ya'alon and Plesner agreed that any issue that remains unresolved between them will be decided upon by Netanyahu and Mofaz on either Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. The target date for completion of the draft is by next Sunday. If on that day the draft is approved by the government, it will be passed on to the Knesset plenum for a first reading, then to a special committee for finalization of the wording, and then for final approval by the Knesset until July 26 — the day the Knesset will begin its summer recess.
At a meeting of the management of the ultra-Orthodox daily newspaper Hamodia on Tuesday, Ya'alon tried to assure ultra-Orthodox leaders that the idea was not to widen sectorial gaps in Israeli society. "Unfortunately, the public and political debate is filled with ignorance, incitement and disregard. We cannot implement mandatory draft for everyone who reaches the age of 18. It is important that we avoid divisions among the public. We are in the midst of formulating a plan that will be implemented in stages to enable all bodies involved to adjust to an expansion in the number of those who share the burden. This will be done in way that will not cause further rifts in society," Ya'alon says.
In a sign of ultra-Orthodox opposition to the pending proposal, Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said on Tuesday "Just as [former Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert was convicted of breach of trust, so too must other politicians be convicted of the same crime."
Litzman also said his party, United Torah Judaism, would not allow the national budget to be passed smoothly in the coming months if a Tal Law replacement not to its liking was approved by the Knesset. "Don't forget that just around the corner there is a national budget that will need to be passed, and there's no chance it will be passed."
Litzman's threat to sabotage the national budget should be taken seriously as his Knesset colleague MK Moshe Gafni, also of United Torah Judaism, is chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, which deals with the state budget.
Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox leaders are continuing to organize a massive demonstration against the draft proposal scheduled for Sunday. Ultra-Orthodox websites published posters intended for use at the demonstration next week in Jerusalem and according to organizers, 2,000 children will attend the event donning a Nazi-era style yellow Star of David.