Chareidi representatives on the Tal Committee to determine a policy for draft deferral for yeshiva students walked out last week in protest just before a number of soldiers of the Nachal Hachareidi were about to enter the room. The Nachal Hachareidi is a framework for chareidi men within the Nachal units of the IDF.
The Tal committee was set up as part of the coalition agreement between United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Prime Minister Barak in order to recommend legislation to exempt yeshiva students from the draft. According to the explicit wording of the agreement, formulated after arduous negotiations, the committee is only to propose legislation to settle the issue of draft deferrals of those for whom Torasom umanusom, and specifically not to deal with any related issues such as alternate military service for chareidi youth who choose to leave yeshiva and serve in the army. Special completely chareidi Nachal units ("Nachal Chareidi") have been set up to provide such an alternative, but they have proven highly controversial.
The chareidi representatives who left the meeting were guided by instructions of gedolei Yisroel who stress that they oppose including the issue of "frameworks and courses" in the committee deliberations, without taking any particular position on those "frameworks and courses". Gedolei Yisroel have made it clear that the interest and obligation of the chareidi community is to those who are studying Torah full time, and it is their problems that they want to solve.
Prior to the establishment of the committee, it was rumored that the Prime Minster sought to include such discussions on the committee agenda, despite all the explicit agreements made during the long coalition negotiations. The prime minister finally promised that the committee would concentrate only on passing the draft deferral law. The law is necessary because of the High Court's determination that the arrangement of 50 years' standing whereby the Minister of Defense issued deferrals as he saw fit is illegal. The Court gave the Knesset a year to pass legislation to regulate army service, and the period is over in less than a month.
Despite the repeated promises, last week Ha'aretz reported that the head of the Youth Department and Nachal in the Defense Ministry, Deputy General (res.) Yehuda Duvdevani, was summoned to testify before the Tal Committee, and that he intended to bring soldiers from the Nachal Hachareidi along with him. The attempt to bring these soldiers was received with shock and dismay.
Rabbonim and chareidi leaders demanded that the prime minister uphold his original promise to speedily pass legislation to settle the deferral of the military service of yeshiva students.
"Attempts by the Prime Minister to waste the Committee's time on discussions which are irrelevant to the legislation, but focus rather on ways to lure yeshiva students to leave their studies and try to undermine the devotion of yeshiva students to Torah, totally contradict the position of maranan verabonon, the gedolei Yisroel, as clarified to the Prime Minister during the coalition negotiations," they said.