Following stormy deliberations, the Knesset House Committee
voted Monday by 12-5 to approve splitting the Tal bill into
two parts. The Knesset will now only pass the first reading
of the section of the bill granting the defense minister the
authority to defer the army service of yeshiva students.
However it will pass the second and third readings of a bill
that will extend the current arrangements for a year, giving
a legal basis to the deferral of service for those who are
studying in yeshiva and avreichim whose sole
occupation is Torah.
The special Knesset committee drafting the bill will
continue to ready the original bill for its second and third
The decision to divide the bill means that the committee no
longer needs to appeal to the High Court for a further
extension or declare the current draft deferral arrangement
Chairman of the Knesset Committee that is dealing with the
issue, MK Saleh Tarif, said that the Knesset must not work
on so important a piece of legislation under the threat of
High Court action. Since it was quite clear that the Court
would probably not grant a further extension from the most
recent deadline of 11 Kislev (December 8), the Knesset must
give itself the time to deal with the issue at its own pace.
Hence the need for the legislation to give a legal basis to
the current arrangement for a year.
The proposal was approved by a majority of 12, including
representatives from One Israel, Shas, United Torah Judaism
and the National Religious Party. The five representatives
from Meretz, Yisrael B'aliyah and Shinui voted against the
proposal. Likud representative Israel Katz approved the
bill, unlike his fellow Likud MK Meir Sheetrit who opposed
MK Sheetrit said that the proposal was designed to ensure
that Shas and United Torah Judaism would support the
coalition, enabling Prime Minister Ehud Barak to remain in
office for another year.
Despite NRP support, NRP MK Shaul Yahalom attacked the law.
MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) attacked Yahalom, saying his remarks
incited against yeshiva students.
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni accused those voting against the law of
hypocrisy. He said that most of the members of a special
committee that is dealing with the draft law approved the
one-year extension, including Shinui leader Tommy Lapid. He
could not understand why they now refused to vote for the
law in the full Knesset committee, where there actions are a
matter of public record. Presumably, they voted against the
law only after being sure that it would nonetheless pass.
Two years ago, the High Court decided that the current draft
of the deferral arrangement was illegal and that the matter
had to be decided by a Knesset law. The court gave the
Knesset four extensions to redraft the deferral