Yair Lapid said his Yesh Atid Party would leave the government if a bill to require haredi Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the military does not include criminal sanctions for draft dodgers.
Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party and Finance Minister in the current government, said the criminal sanction should apply to all draft dodgers, not just yeshiva students, during the Israel Channel 2 program Meet the Press. “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 Yesh Atid party made a universal draft law, which it also calls the Sharing the Burden law, one of its major campaign issues. The Jewish Home Party led by Naftali Bennett, with whom Lapid has shared an alliance, opposes jail time for yeshiva students who do not respond to their conscription summonses.
Lapid called the issue of draft dodging “an open wound in the heart of the state.”
On Thursday, haredi Orthodox demonstrators protested cuts in yeshiva funding over draft deferrals.
The demonstrations came after Israel’s Supreme Court earlier in the week froze nearly $3 million in funding to haredi Orthodox yeshivas until the government stops military deferments for their students and passes a new law on drafting yeshiva students.
The funding was to be withheld from yeshivas with students aged 18-20 who have received draft notices since last summer but did not appear for their induction. But Lapid in his position as Finance Minister halted all funding to the yeshivas, including freezing payments already transferred earlier in the week for the February disbursement, after discovering that the money was still being used for those students.
The Tal Law, which allowed haredi men to defer army service indefinitely, was invalidated by the Supreme Court in February 2012 and expired in August that year. Haredi yeshiva students since then have had their drafts deferred.
A government committee headed by lawmaker Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party is working to finish revising a universal draft law, which already has passed its first reading in the Knesset. The final bill is expected to be brought for its second and third reading in mid-March.