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Knesset rejects bills requiring all Israelis to serve

JTA

February 22, 2012 | 11:11 am

Soldiers returning to Israel after the Second Lebanon War on Jan. 13, 2007.

Soldiers returning to Israel after the Second Lebanon War on Jan. 13, 2007.

The Knesset rejected two bills that would have required all Israeli citizens, including the haredi Orthodox, to serve in the military or national service.

Both the National Service bill and the Defense Service bill, proposed by the opposition Kadima Party, were voted down Wednesday by a vote of 55 to 27.

Debate on the bills came a day after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Tal Law, which allows yeshiva students to delay their military service, is unconstitutional. The vote was 6 to 3.

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.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed a Cabinet vote on extending the law, which is set to expire in August. If the law expires without something to replace it, haredi Orthodox will be required to enlist.

“The law, which has already been found in violation of the right to equality as part of the right to dignity, does not meet the proportionality standard and is therefore unconstitutional,” Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote in the majority decision.

Barak, now the defense minister, reportedly welcomed Tuesday night’s verdict. He has said that he would like to end the Tal Law and have a fairer system put into place.

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