Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid Photo by Alon Ron
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Media personality-turned-politician Yair Lapid on Tuesday unveiled his plan to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into all aspects of Israeli life, including the Israel Defense Forces, the welfare sector, and the workforce.

The proposal includes a five year draft exemption for ultra-Orthodox men, and sending them into the workforce instead. During that period, a foundation for ultra-Orthodox civil service would be established as well, ready to absorb youths that will not be drafted into the IDF.

Lapid presented his ideas at an event launching his new political party, “Yesh Atid,” (There is a future) at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

"Our model is different from the ones presented by Kadima and Likud," Lapid said. "It is the result of months of work.”

Lapid also directly addressed the ultra-Orthodox: “We do not hate you. There is no anti-Haredi message here. Frankly, we can no longer fund you, and we can no longer serve this country alone."

He added that the model he presented must also include Arabs, in a voluntary manner. “We believe that you are citizens deserving of rights, but equal rights comes with an equal share of the burden,” said Lapid, addressing Israeli Arab citizens.

Lapid said that estimations show that during the five-year period during which ultra-Orthodox would be exempt from IDF service, roughly half of draft-age men will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the workforce.

“We are estimating that this will save the country roughly NIS 1.5 billion per year. That money won’t be swallowed up by the treasury, rather it will be earmarked for salaries and scholarships for those serving in combat and support positions,” said Lapid, unveiling another aspect of the plan.

 “Perhaps a party that just wants to attract voters would needlessly drag this portion of the presentation on – but this is the right thing to do, and that is ‘new politics,’” added Lapid.

The plan proposes that a civil service program that will “change the welfare world” will be launched during the next five years. At the end of the exemption period, every 18-year-old will arrive at the draft office, and whoever is not needed by the army, or whose lifestyle does not allow for military service, will be sent to civil service.

“This model is not just fair, it’s also economical,” said Lapid. He explained, “Unlike other populist plans, which say – ‘Let’s give the combat soldiers a salary’ – but don’t say where they money will come from.”

With respect to those drafted – Lapid’s plan promises to pay minimum wage beginning in the second year of service, and to bestow a full scholarship for studies upon release from IDF service.

 “Over 60,000 people will enter the welfare sector,” said Lapid. “Imagine what a revolution it will be. No hospital will be in need of extra manpower. When is the last time you saw someone in a hospital just sitting next to a patient, holding their hand?” asked Lapid.

“I know there are people who won’t want to be drafted, even under these conditions. The state will tell them – life in this country does not follow your plan,” said Lapid. “Not everyone can, or should be the Hazon Ish or Rabbi Shalom Eliashiv, though there could be a category, similar to outstanding athletes,” continued Lapid.

“But you can do anything you want with your life, and you won’t be even one millimeter less of a Jew, because Judaism is Torah, as well as action,” said Lapid, addressing the ultra-Orthodox.

Read this article in Hebrew.