The recommendations of the Tal Commission on the issue of
drafting yeshiva students, which passed their first reading a
week and a half ago were the subject of much passion. The
entire delegation of UTJ was united in a valiant effort to
ensure the passage of the bill and their parliamentary
efforts displayed an encouraging unity.
The surprise of the vote was the speech and vote against the
bill by Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who had enjoyed a
generally easy access to rabbinical leaders throughout the
years. In the vote, Likud and Sharon voted together with
Shinui and Meretz against the desperate pleas of the chareidi
representatives of UTJ and Shas. Sharon declared that it was
his conscience that insisted that he vote as he did.
In this, he turned his back on many years of cooperation with
the religious community. When the Likud was in power it
considered chareidi support as a "given" and many complained
that we were not given our due since we were taken so much
for granted. Yet this vote is liable to change this.
It still remains true that the Right is closer to us than the
Left. Yet this incident will certainly remain with us remind
us that the Right is just less bad than the Left, but nothing
more than that.
Though we owe Prime Minister Barak some gratitude for his
stand in support of the Tal bill in the face of intense
criticism from his own allies, we cannot say that this one
instance wiped out all the hurt of the past, such as the
unnecessary and very public chilul Shabbos that Barak
ordered in the transport of the turbine parts almost a year
ago. Moreover, Barak's support was clearly political and not
ideological, and the chances for full passage of the bill on
its second and third readings are not good.
Barak campaigned very long and very loudly for drafting
yeshiva students. As the leader of the opposition, with much
fanfare he proposed a law to draft all yeshiva students. His
last election campaign promised "The Draft for All."
The biggest problem with Barak's support was put very sharply
by Yossi Sarid, who voted against the Tal bill. Many said
that the prime minister must have lied when he promised to
draft everyone. Sarid explained, "Our problem is with the
truth of the prime minister, not with his lies. Today, the
prime minister himself said that when he promised what he
promised, he did not know exactly what it meant. . . . There
is a problem with this. The first problem is that the prime
minister does not come from nowhere; he was the Army Chief of
Staff. A man who comes from being the Chief of Staff should
know all the details about this issue . . . the second
problem . . . is that no one can be sure that this saying
[that he did not know exactly what he meant] only applies to
this issue. . . And this is a very serious problem."
Serious indeed. If Barak had said that he believes that
yeshiva students should be drafted but he will compromise for
peace or for politics, that would have been one thing. But to
maintain, with his background in politics and the army, that
he did not fully understand the complexity of the proposal to
draft yeshiva students when he made it, calls everything that
he says into question.
We pray that he does not make such a mistake in negotiating
with the Palestinian Authority.