Yair Lapid Will 'Obviously' Vote for Israel's ultra-Orthodox Draft Bill

'The chief of staff and the army are behind it and what’s more important — it will lead to more Haredi men being drafted and joining the workforce,' Lapid says

Yair Lapid at a faction meeting in March.
Emil Salman

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid has said he will vote for the current version of the bill regulating the military conscription of ultra-Orthodox men when it is submitted to the Knesset Monday for the first of three votes. It’s doubtful the bill could pass without the support of Yesh Atid and other opposition parties, since Haredi MKs will either abstain or not show up for the vote.

Lapid issued a Q&A to clarify his positions on the issue.

Will you vote for the draft bill?

“Obviously. This is actually a bill prepared by Yesh Atid. It’s no coincidence the Haredi parties oppose it. This followed our victory in the High Court of Justice. The bill’s basic principles derive from the law we passed in the previous government. The chief of staff and the army are behind it and what’s more important — it will lead to more Haredi men being drafted and joining the workforce.”

But the law does not impose sanctions for noncompliance?

“Actually it does. It explicitly stipulates that if after three years the draft quotas aren’t met, criminal sanctions kick in. The bill also stipulated prison terms for anyone who dodges the draft (including non-Haredim).”

If the bill doesn’t pass, the government will fall. Isn’t it the opposition’s role to topple the government?

“It’s definitely the opposition’s role to topple the government. (I tried to explain this to the Labor Party three months ago, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to call early elections, but as you may remember Labor collaborated with Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and the Haredi parties and prevented that.) However, the government won’t fall if the law doesn’t pass. It’s just something someone said and everyone’s repeating it. If the law doesn’t pass, the government will ask the High Court to extend the current law.”

Does the army actually need Haredi men?

“The answer is an emphatic yes. Both because of the army’s operational requirements but beyond that, since Israeli society will fall apart if we don’t have a fundamental law by which everyone has the same rights and the same duties. The Haredim always cry out in these situations that they are targets of hatred, but how can one speak of hatred when we’re talking about all our children serving together, living together, getting to know each other and, mainly, defending the people of Israel together? The debate around this bill is not a technical one, it’s not even political. It’s a matter of values relating to where we are headed. Will we disperse and split up into factions and tribes, with everyone committed only to his own group, or is the principle of a common life with common goals still important to us? This is what Yesh Atid has been fighting for from its first day. We’re not against the ultra-Orthodox, we’re for the State of Israel.”