Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) welcomed on Wednesday morning the decision by the High Court of Justice to halt the distribution of stipends to thousands of yeshiva students whose enlistment into the IDF has been postponed, saying, "It's a shame that the courts need to remind our government to uphold its own laws."
The High Court issued an interim injunction against the state on Tuesday, prohibiting it from transferring money to yeshivas for approximately 3,000 students due to the payments’ lack of legal standing.
The decision marks the first time the High Court has decisively intervened on the issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment since the “Tal Law” expired at the end of July 2012. Draft equality groups are proclaiming the move a signal of the court’s intent should the Knesset delay much longer over legislation for drafting haredi men into military or national service.
Immediately following the ruling on Tuesday, Lapid said in a short statement that the Finance Ministry would halt the payment of the stipends to the students in question in accordance with the High Court injunction.
Speaking in an Army Radio interview on Wednesday, Lapid said that "the High Court of Justice is right, the state must enforce the law, and there is only one law." Lapid added that if one wishes to enroll in a yeshiva or to work in the study of Torah, he supports them 100 percent, but that this does not entitle one to recieve government money.
However, MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), who leads the committee tasked with drafting legislation on haredi enlistment, responded that it is not the High Court's place to put pressure on the Knesset as the process of passing a bill for enlisting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students is still ongoing. She went on to say that the court's decision is pointless as the committee already approved a schedule for next month when she expects the law to come into effect following a vote in the Knesset.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, form Lapid's Yesh Atid faction, said on Wednesday that the issue could potentially endanger Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition.
Peri said that Yesh Atid would not compromise on equality in the service burden, and would insist that legislation on the matter include criminal penalties for draft-dodgers.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Peri said, "Yesh Atid will cause a coalition crisis if the bill in its final readings won't require serving, which implies criminal sanctions."
On Tuesday, the High Court's decision was highly contested by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett who said that it is not the High Court's place to meddle in Knesset affairs and that their decision will only make coming to an agreement with the haredi movements more difficult.
Haredi politicians also strongly condemned the High Court's order on Tuesday. Senior haredi MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) spoke out harshly against the decision, and said that the High Court was “recognized as an enemy of the haredi public in its discriminatory ruling.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.