Finance Minister Yair Lapid will back down from his Yesh Atid Party’s threat to quit the coalition if criminal sanctions for haredi draft dodgers are not legislated, a source close to Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said Wednesday.
The High Court issued an interim injunction against the state on Tuesday, prohibiting it from transferring money to yeshivot for approximately 3,000 students due to the payments’ lack of legal standing.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri of Yesh Atid, who headed a committee on the draft bill, warned Wednesday that the issue could potentially endanger Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
“Yesh Atid will cause a coalition crisis if the bill in its final readings doesn’t require [military or national] service, which implies criminal sanctions,” Peri told Army Radio.
But a source close to Bennett said his party would insist that there be no criminal sanctions. The source said such sanctions violated the coalition agreement and would undermine the entire effort to draft yeshiva students.
“Such sanctions will not add a single haredi soldier to the IDF,” the source said.
“They will only give the haredim ammunition to fight against the draft. The only incentive haredim need to serve is poverty. No ultimatum is needed.”
In past battles between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, Lapid gave in to Bennett. Lapid also threatened coalition crises over benefits for gay couples and comments by the chief rabbis about opposing the drafting of women.
The government bill for drafting haredi men into national service is still in the committee stage, and no agreement has been reached between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi on how to punish those refusing to enlist, the central clause of the bill.
Yesh Atid is insisting that the Security Services Law, which provides for imprisonment of up to two years for anyone refusing to serve, be applicable to haredi men as it is to all other Jewish men of military age.
Bayit Yehudi says, however, that such a stance will antagonize the haredi leadership and general public, and is therefore insisting that economic sanctions alone be stipulated in the bill as a negative incentive to increase enlistment.
Various compromises have been floated, including the possibility that criminal sanctions will be imposed only several years after the bill comes into effect, but an agreement has yet to be reached.
According to the director- general of the Association of Yeshivot, Shlomo Brilland, the funds for yeshiva student stipends for February were transferred before the High Court decision, but were then halted by the Treasury on Wednesday.
Shas MK Eli Yishai has proposed a bill to withhold subsidies from institutes of higher education where the number of students who did not serve in the IDF is greater than 20 percent.
Yishai introduced the bill following the High Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday forcing the state to cease paying several thousand yeshiva students their monthly stipend, since the legal standing for these payments expired with the so-called “Tal Law” at the end of July 2012.
Yishai’s bill has no real chance of being passed, but was part of the continued attack by haredi and national- religious MKs against the High Court decision.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said the High Court was behaving like a “bully in the market” and that the haredi leadership would “wage a world war against it until it becomes illegitimate.”
“This is an institution that represents the secular elite alone,” Gafni declared.
Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun joined the chorus of lawmakers from his party who have criticized the decision, saying: “The value of Torah study is just as important as the value of sharing in national service.”
The High Court’s ruling was “irresponsible and unnecessary,” he continued.
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