Finance Minister Yair Lapid called on President Shimon Peres in the latter’s office on Monday to assure him that his ongoing demand that all citizens of Israel share the burden is not a witch hunt against haredim. Outlining the principles of the amended legislation, Lapid said the law was formulated with the intent of ensuring that all citizens of Israel serve the country. The law includes everyone, and the haredi community feels needlessly affronted, he said. “They’re not criminals. They simply have to obey a draft order”.
He then reiterated what he has been saying for some time now that the haredi community must contribute to national security like everyone else, receive professional training for a career and then go out into the job market in great numbers.
Contrary to all the charges that have been leveled against him by leading figures in the haredi communities, Lapid insisted that he bears no malice towards haredim. He respects Torah study which should be maintained, he said, “and this is part of our role.” But this is a time he declared, when the state must say to its citizens that difficult decisions must be made, “and we have both the privilege and the obligation to fight for our values, the basis of which is that that all citizens of the state have the same rights and the same obligations.. “No-one is exempt.”
Lapid said it was important to him to convey these principles to Peres so that together they could bring Israel to a new path as a state and as its citizens.
Peres who recently met with haredi Members of Knesset and heard their side of the story, said that as president it was his duty and his right to meet with and listen to all both sides involved in the dispute, especially in view the fact that it was he who on behalf of Ben Gurion had led the negotiations with the haredi leadership in the early years of the state. He recalled the importance that Ben Gurion had attached to enabling gifted Torah scholars to continue with their studies, but in those days this applied to only a few hundred students, and not to the thousands who are currently refusing to accept their call-up notices. Peres suggested that it might be easier to achieve the goal of sharing the burden by trying to find a modus vivendi though dialogue, uniting the different facets of society, and refraining from using the expression “criminal act” in relation to draft dodgers.
Peres told Lapid that the onus of correcting an historic mistake rested on his shoulders. Peres said that he had met with many haredim who all felt hurt and insulted by the repetitive utterance of expressions such as “criminal act” and “sanctions” in relation to their reluctance to accept the draft. It was imperative that a mutually acceptable way be found to reach agreement on equal responsibility, he said.
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