Because Lapid’s agenda has focused on Haredi draft enlistment, it has sparked many a polemical debate in Israeli society and has thoroughly roiled the ultra-Orthodox community who are adamantly opposed to serving in the military.
The Jerusalem Post reported that while speaking on the Israeli Channel 2 program “Meet The Press” Lapid expressed confidence that Yesh Atid representatives on the special Knesset committee on the Haredi draft issue would reach a satisfactory agreement with the Bayit Yehudi party, which opposes criminal sanctions
“There is a law that must obligate everyone, and everyone will have to obey it,” he said. “We will not sit in a government that will not pass the draft bill, and it must be real. I won’t accept some kind of camouflage just to stay in the government.”
The Shaked committee, headed by MK Ayelet Shaked of the Bayit HaYehudi party has been given the authority to craft the legislation according to the recommendations presented to the government by the Peri committee, according to a report on Israel HaYom. The committee was named eponymously for Science and Technology Minister MK Yaakov Peri of Yesh Atid who was asked by the government to devise a plan that would promote the integration of the haredim and other minority groups into military and national service.
While speaking on Israeli TV, Lapid disclosed the fact that a dialogue had been established with Haredi leaders on the issue but discussions were being kept under wraps. Lapid said that the Haredi riots that took place on Thursday, Feb 6 did not ruffle him and called upon the vast majority of secular Israelis to display understanding towards the Haredim as they navigate unprecedented transitions in their lives due to army service.
“We were not surprised by the extent of the demonstrations,” Lapid said. “We know we are working on a societal revolution and that it is difficult. That’s why people were afraid of dealing with it in the past. We are not afraid. It is an open wound in the heart of the state, so we will pass the bill.”
The current, 30-page bill outlines the recommended guidelines to promote the integration of Haredim into the army including the financial sanctions that will be imposed on those who refuse to serve: suspension of their social security benefits, reducing daycare subsidies by 25 percent, annulling property tax breaks, suspending Housing Ministry benefits, annulling various mortgage mitigations and suspending funds for Haredi institution
Violent scenes unfolded last Thursday as thousands of Haredim from across the country staged demonstrations against coerced enlistment in the army. Only a day earlier, a yeshiva student had been arrested for failing to present himself at an IDF enlistment office.
The Jerusalem Post also reported that the protesters were also adamantly opposed to the High Court of Justice’s recent decision to halt government stipends to several thousand full-time yeshiva students.
Demonstrators gathered last Thursday at major traffic intersections at the entrances to Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Ashdod and Modi’in Illit in order to stop traffic. In addition, large numbers of rioters clashed with police and the authorities responded with the use of water cannons while officers attempted to disperse the large crowds.
Police arrested a total of 34 protesters around the country. Three officers were wounded, one due to a stone a rioter threw at him.
In Jerusalem, underneath the Bridge of Strings, police dispersed the Haredi protesters and arrested 12 for disturbing the peace. At the Coca-Cola junction on Route 4 near Bnei Brak, some 2,000 haredim demonstrated. Police arrested three of them, and one officer was injured, according to a Jerusalem Post report.
In Ashdod, 13 people were arrested and charged with various offenses including participating in an illegal gathering, rioting, aggravated assault against police officers, obstructing a police officer and insulting a public official.
The Jerusalem-based faction of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach’s followers, which organized last Thursday’s demonstrations have announced plans to stage similar protests this week, according to a report on Israel HaYom.
“There will be no negotiation. Not one single son of the Torah will enlist in the army,” one of Auerbach’s followers said.
Last Tuesday, the High Court issued a ruling requiring the state to freeze government subsidies from Haredi students aged 18-21 who refused to comply with their draft notices.
It was then that Lapid halted funding, but the following day, the Treasury discovered that the funds had continued to make their way to the students, according to a Jerusalem Post report.
After an urgent consultation, Lapid ordered that all yeshiva funds be frozen until the Education and Defense ministries could sort out precisely which yeshiva students were meant to be cut off. He said the action was necessary to comply with the High Court’s decisions.
Yisrael Beytenu Chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also commented on the issue on Saturday, saying that “there is no reason why a Haredi man who doesn’t want to serve in the military can’t serve his community instead. There is no ultimatum here. Anything that can promote unity is good.”