JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Tal Law, which exempts full-time yeshiva students from mandatory army service, will be replaced with "a more egalitarian and just law," Israel’s Prime Minister promised activists.
"The division of the burden must be changed. What has been is not what will be," Netanyahu told representatives of reservist activists protesting as part of what is called the "suckers’ encampment."
The Tal Law must be extended every five years. The law, named for retired Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal and enacted in 2002 under then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, allows full-time yeshiva students to delay their army service until age 23. At that time, students either can continue to study full time or perform a shortened army service or a year of national service. Afterward they may choose to join the workforce.
In February, Israel’s Supreme Court declared the Tal Law unconstitutional. It is set to expire in August.
"I know that there are many hitchhikers who voted to automatically extend the Tal Law. I am not one of them," Netanyahu said during the early Sunday morning meeting. "The Tal Law will be replaced by a more egalitarian and just law, and I will submit it."
Netanyahu said the new law would include civilian national service for Arab citizens, who are not required to serve in the military.
Changing the Tal Law "must be done without setting public against public. The change will entail expanding frameworks and increasing budgets. This is high on the list of priorities for the security of the state," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also reportedly told the reservists that he would be willing to go to early elections over changing the law.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, head of the Labor Party, as well as the Kadima and Meretz parties, have threatened to bring proposals for early elections before the Knesset in the coming days. Likud coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu also has threatened to bring a request for early elections over amending the Tal Law, with party leader Avigdor Lieberman saying on a Saturday news show that "Our obligation to the coalition is over. We have an obligation to voters as well."