Lapid Praises Bill That Would Criminalize Haredi Draft-dodging

'Zionism has come back,’ declares finance minister after panel passes controversial clause.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Finance Minister Yair Lapid praised on Thursday morning the decision of the Shaked Committee to approve a key clause of a military draft reform, which would level criminal sanctions against young ultra-Orthodox men who refuse to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv along with other ministers from his Yesh Atid party, Lapid stated that “Zionism has come back, and has brought unit pride along with it,” referring to IDF soldiers’ identification with the units in which they serve.

“Last night, the equal sharing of the burden law passed the Knesset committee. An historical, legal mistake that went on for 65 years was corrected, because we remained steadfast and stuck to our guns,” added Lapid.

“Everyone will go to Bakum [the IDF central induction base], serve either military or civilian service, afterwards join the job market and make a living for themselves and their families. It won’t happen in three or four years, but next month. Starting next month, every young man in Bnei Brak will receive a draft notice, without exception. Starting next month, after the bill passes its second and third readings tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men will enter the job market, after being imprisoned until now in the yeshivas, living at our expense. Within three years, seventy percent of young ultra-Orthodox [men] will be drafted. No more evasions, no more draft dodgers, either secular or religious,” said Lapid.

Yesh Atid faction chairman MK Ofer Shelah said that the draft law “is not impingent on the discretion of the prime minister or any defense minister.”

According to Shelah, “if the Haredim do not come out in significant numbers, the national service law will automatically go into effect for all, save 1,800 students. We made sure that in the end there will not only be a mandatory draft, but also that the term economic sanctions, which sounds like buying draftees with money, will not be included in Israeli law.”

The Equality of Burden Forum stated in response to Yesh Atid’s press conference that “this is a historic day in which the cynical way in which politicians view their voters has reached a new low. Lapid thinks we’re all stupid. How can he say that every 18-year-old will be drafted, when just yesterday a bill was passed with just the opposite result?”

MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “abandoning the Haredim, harming their status and violating the rights of yeshiva students.” According to Litzman, “From the start, I did not trust this committee, nor did I participate in it. Its real conclusions are clear, painful, and regrettable. Israel has become the first nation in the world that makes Torah scholars into criminals. It is shameful to see Habayit Hayehudi representatives take part in this crime that will go down in history, by raising their hands against those who study Torah.”

The vote on the controversial clause was made possible Wednesday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came up with a proposal, which held that criminal sanctions could be leveled against young ultra-Orthodox men who refuse to be drafted. The proposal was a near copy of an earlier proposal made by the Perry Committee on draft reform.

Starting in mid-2017, the national service law will apply to Haredim, along with the draft law. Young ultra-Orthodox men will be eligible for the draft to age 24, and be able to delay their draft on a yearly basis until that age. In 2017, a six-month preparation period will go into effect, allowing both the IDF and Haredi men to prepare for the draft.

A poster against Haredim serving in the army, Jerusalem, March 2013.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Finance Minister Yair Lapid.Credit: Tomer Apelbaum

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