Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein expressed concern that the haredi conscription bill will cause a rift in the nation.
“There is currently record-high tension between groups in society, and I fear for the unity of our nation,” he stated. “The purpose of the law is to justly bring equality, but if the result is a civil war, we will not achieve anything.”
Edelstein condemned incitement against lawmakers and ministers, saying “I am for freedom of expression and will defend any group’s right to say what he has to say, but disseminating photos of elected officials in Nazi uniforms is very serious and can lead to real violence.”
MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) took issue with those claiming the protest would turn violent, saying “this isn’t Tahrir [Square], this isn’t Kiev.”
“We have police authorization; we’re not breaking the law. You can’t turn us into enemies of the state. We’re citizens of Zion, like anyone else, and we can protest a law that we don’t like,” Eichler said.
“The attempt to force us to be like everyone else cannot be. We are Zionists in the way the Torah describes.”
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, chairman of the Ministerial Committee on Haredi Conscription, said that the protest reflects a historic change.
“The demonstration is a sign of the change in perception in haredi society, and for the first time in 65 years they’re recognizing that there will be a law requiring yeshiva students to serve,” Peri stated. “This is a cultural revolution that will be difficult for them, which is why the law is balanced and sensitive and sets clear goals for enlistment and cooperation before automatic, required conscription. It all depends on them.”
Peri added that the general public has its hands stretched out to the haredi public and wants integration and equality.
“This unity proves how much [haredim] are necessary in serving the country and in the workforce,” he posited.
According to Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, the new law will not bring anything remotely resembling equality.
“Even the haredim are laughing. It’s no coincidence that hundreds of thousands took to the street to pray. They’re expressing thanks, because this is what they hoped for,” Gilon wrote on Facebook.
“This bill will allow a mass of exemptions in the next decade and surely will not increase the percentage of haredim in the IDF.”
“Shas and United Torah Judaism could not have asked for anything better than this,” the Meretz MK added.
Similarly, MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor) said that “Purim isn’t here yet, so the time has come to take off masks. There is no equality.
A discriminatory arrangement is being replaced with another discriminatory arrangement in which the size of a kippa still determines the size of the exemption.”
“Zionism isn’t back as [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid claimed, cynicism is, at our expense, and the protesters should send Lapid flowers,” Shmuli added. “Sweeping exemptions were given to 50,000 haredim.
Lapid sold out those who served in favor of hesder yeshivot, and what’s worse is he pushed the bill’s implementation on to the next government. No one expected a perfect deal, but no one expected one that is so empty and disgraceful either.”
“The one thing that the protesters today and the protesters from summer 2011 have in common is that Lapid benefited from both of them,” Shmuli quipped.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli said the demonstration is good for the haredim, because it shows they’re fighting, and it is good for Yesh Atid, because it shows the haredim are protesting against them, but it is not good for anyone else.
“Apparently, Lapid thinks that this protest serves his interest and makes him look like the hero of equality and service, but the public isn’t stupid like Lapid thinks it is and knows the truth,” Michaeli stated. “Lapid is the king of inequality and of dividing and conquering.”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) spoke out against the inconvenience the protest caused: “I respect the right to protest, but it is not more important than the right for many others to live their lives as normal and the necessity for the capital of the State of Israel to operate and function as usual.”
Meanwhile, MK Zvulun Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi), who opposes the conscription bill, quipped on Facebook that he hopes the protesting haredim will pray for rain.