Lapid: Netanyahu 'Panicked and Fled' on ultra-Orthodox Issue

Yesh Atid chairman lays out his condition for joining government: Haredim must be required to do military or civilian service and go to work.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid has already said he believes the way to exert influence is from inside the government, which is why he would prefer to join it, but on Wednesday he laid out his condition: The government he joins must require the Haredim to do military or civilian service and go to work.

"Whoever forms the next government needs to know: We are not asking for portfolios, we are not asking for seats, we didn't establish Yesh Atid for that purpose. These are our principles. We will not be part of a government that will not enlist the Haredim and get them into the job market," Lapid told a news conference. "They can't sell us the idea that it's complicated. It's not complicated. Everyone should enlist. Or to military service, or to civil service. And everyone should study the core curriculum, and everyone should work. And I won't buy the argument that this is an anti-Haredi statement, because it's not. I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't ask of myself, or of my children," Lapid continued.

He accused three of his main election rivals - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett - of doing nothing on this issue.

He said Netanyahu had a "historic opportunity" to draft the Haredim, bring them into the job market and transform Israeli society. "And at the last moment he panicked and fled," said Lapid. "So we know that he prefers not to do anything, and therefore he needs to be forced. This is the role of Yesh Atid."

He vowed that the move to require Haredim to "share the burden" of national duty and work won't be put off any longer. "There won't be another committee, there won't be a vaguely worded outline, and they won't sell us the idea of discussing the issue after entering the government," he said, citing the Knesset's Plesner Committee, which was set up to find a mechanism for drafting the ultra-Orthodox, and whose failure started the process that led to Netanyahu's calling new elections.

He went on to attack Bennett for offering "deceptive solutions," saying Bennett "tells the secular public he will address the equality burden, and then runs to whisper in the ears of the ultra-Orthodox rabbis that they shouldn't worry, he is only referring to those who do not study Torah.

"Mr. Bennett, I read your proposal seriously," said Lapid, "and its only interpretation is the continuation of the existing agreement that is destroying Israeli society from within."

Lapid also attacked the chairwoman of the Labor party, Shelly Yacimovich, for not being involved in the matter, calling for her to "stop avoiding the issue and stop saying that it is not important."

Lapid at a press conference Wednesday, January 9, 2013. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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