Yesh Atid (There is a Future) will not enter into a coalition that does not vow to impose mandatory military service on the ultra-Orthodox and end their reliance on state subsidies, party leader Yair Lapid declared on Wednesday.
"We will not sit in a government that does not draft the haredim and doesn't integrate them into the workforce," the former TV host said at a press conference in Tel Aviv, where he attacked the largely religious Habayit Hayehudi party and its leader Naftali Bennett for alleged double talk on the issue of the ultra-Orthodox draft.
"Bennett is speaking with a loud voice about an equal sharing of the burden, but he is whispering different things into rabbis' ears. He is telling them they need not worry, because he plans to apply it only to those who do not study Torah." Lapid further rejected the notion that his own plans were unrealistic. "Don't let them tell you that this is not possible — it is absolutely possible," he said.
In Israel, ultra-Orthodox men are effectively exempt from mandatory military service if they study full time in a yeshiva. The state also grants them unique funding to cover their living expenses throughout the course of their studies. Despite a High Court of Justice ruling from about a year ago striking down the so-called Tal Law that granted this waiver, the Knesset has yet to legislate a new law governing conscription to the military.
Lapid also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of failing to tackle the draft issue when he formed a unity government with Kadima in May. "He had a historic opportunity to draft the ultra-Orthodox, but at the last minute he got cold feet and pulled out," Lapid said.
When Kadima agreed to join the Likud-led government back in May, one of the main items in the partnership agreement stipulated a joint effort to enact new legislation that would apply mandatory service across the board. Ultimately though, the coalition unraveled over which new draft mechanism should be introduced.
"We will not accept another fudging of the issue as happened with the Plesner committee," Lapid said, referring to the joint Kadima-Likud task force that worked on a new conscription bill but ultimately failed to agree on its core provisions and was subsequently disbanded.
Lapid went on to attack Labor leader MK Shelly Yachimovich for her alleged sidestepping of the draft issue. "The efforts to dodge this issue or dismiss it as unimportant must come to an end," Lapid said.
Rabbi Shay Moshe Piron, who is second on Lapid's Knesset candidate list, also attacked the ultra-Orthodox on Wednesday, saying they had distorted Judaism by claiming that under Jewish law they should be exempt from serving in the military.
The Likud party campaign issued a statement responding to Lapid's harsh words on Wednesday, saying the party was "glad that Lapid identifies with our agenda."
"Since the Tal Law expired, more than 1,600 haredim have taken part in the draft process by complying with their first draft notice and showing up at the IDF recruitment offices," the statement read.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon also criticized Lapid, saying, "There is hatred that gets digested with gastric fluids and is then directed at the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox; this hatefulness is a particularly bad thing."