Coalition crisis on draft dodging heats up

Lapid vows no compromise; Peri insists on criminal sanctions.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 29, 2013 03:24
2 minute read.
Yair Lapid at cabinet meeting, 20 May 2013.

Yair Lapid at Cabinet Meeting, looking official 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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The crisis in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government surrounding criminal sanctions for draft dodgers intensified Tuesday night, after lawyers representing Likud and Yesh Atid failed to reach a compromise.

The six ministers on the committee examining the issue of equalizing the burden, led by Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, will meet Wednesday morning for the first time since a late night meeting on Sunday ended in a fierce dispute.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid canceled a trip to an OECD meeting of finance ministers in Paris due to the crisis.

“From our perspective, there is no compromising,” a source close to Lapid said.

“Everyone in [Likud] understands that we will not compromise on our principles.”

A separate source within Yesh Atid confirmed Peri was continuing to insist that criminal sanctions remain a part of the proposed bill once it is fully enacted, if haredi enlistment targets in the three-year interim period are not met.

Associates of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmed that there is no update on the wording of a controversial clause in the bill that would mandate how to draft yeshiva students and punish those who evade service. But Ya’alon himself expressed optimism that a compromise could still be reached.

“The conflict can be overcome and I hope we will succeed,” Ya’alon told reporters in Ramle. “There is dialogue, and I believe that ultimately the wording will change, because the initial wording was unacceptable for me. I hope we will draft something that will enable us to avoid future coalition conflicts.”

Ya’alon criticized Lapid’s methods for drafting yeshiva students and warned that they would be counter-productive.

“Unfortunately there are those who do not understand the sensitivity of making such a change,” he said.

“It cannot be done by law or by sword. When sectors of the population are threatened with jail, the progress that has been made in increasing the numbers who serve will be reversed.”

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who is on the Peri Committee, took Likud’s side in the dispute, saying that Yesh Atid changed its view on how to sanction draft dodgers for political reasons.

Ariel will vote against the clause in the bill if criminal sanctions remain a part of it.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni criticized Lapid for different reasons. She accused him of “surrendering to [Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali] Bennett” on adding only one month to the service time of national religious soldiers in hesder yeshivot.

“It is hypocrisy to call this equalizing the burden,” Livni said. “Instead of full dodging of haredim you will have partial dodging of the national-religious.”

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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