Yair Lapid at Cabinet Meeting, looking official 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took steps to bridge gaps with Yesh Atid on
how to punish haredi draft dodgers Monday night in an effort to resolve the
first crisis of the coalition he formed two months ago.
The crisis began
in the middle of Sunday night when Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid instructed
Science, Technology, and Space Minister Yaakov Peri to halt proceedings of the
committee entrusted with equalizing the burden of service. The crisis intensified with threats from Lapid to leave
the coalition, but by Monday night it appeared a solution was in reach and would
be initiated as early as Tuesday.
“I have no doubt that we will succeed
in finding a compromise with Yesh Atid that will enable us to complete drafting
the legislation,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told The Jerusalem Post
Monday night following a conversation in which Netanyahu urged him not to delay
Ya’alon denied reports that Netanyahu had urged him to concede
to Lapid and vote for criminal sanctions on haredi draft dodgers.
reports said such a step would be a tactical move until legislation could be
watered down later on.
At a meeting of the Likud faction, Transportation
Minister Israel Katz led Likud MKs in criticizing Ya’alon for allowing Lapid to
score political points at Likud’s expense. Likud ministers privately accused
Ya’alon of sacrificing the party to kowtow to the haredi sector that could help
him as an expected future prime ministerial candidate.
the crisis at the meeting, referring to it as a “virtual
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin denounced the dispute as
political spin intended to distract the public from the value-added tax increase
that passed in the Finance Committee Monday at the behest of the Lapid-led
“After 65 years, we are before a historic change that
will lead to significant progress toward equalizing the burden,” Netanyahu said.
“Until the law is implemented, there will be many crises and headlines, real and
fictional. I am certain we can find solutions for the few clauses that have
remained open. There will be a law.”
But Lapid sounded very serious at
his faction meeting, calling upon the Likud to stop playing games that could
prevent a historic injustice from being fixed. He accused the Likud of trying to
torpedo the Peri Committee to find favor with haredim.
“Service will be
equalized or the government will come apart,” Lapid said. “If someone thinks I
entered politics just to fix the economic catastrophe that the last government
left us, they don’t understand what we are doing here. Those who think we will
surrender on equalizing the burden doesn’t know us.”
Kadima leader Shaul
Mofaz said the same thing happened to his party when Netanyahu disbanded the
Kadima-led Plesner Committee last year. The dispute over how to draft yeshiva
students led to the collapse of Netanyahu’s short-lived coalition with Kadima.
He called upon Lapid to hold strong and “not become the dishrag of the
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett engaged in shuttle diplomacy
to prevent the current coalition from suffering the same fate. Bennett met three
times with Ya’alon and three times with Lapid on Monday.
“We will find a
solution, because we agree on more than we disagree,” Bennett said. “This is not
the time to burn bridges. We need to work to find a solution. No one wants to
see police conduct mass arrests on Bnei Brak. We want there to be enough
incentives and love to connect the haredim to Israeli society.”
In a sign
of optimism, the Bayit Yehudi faction appointed secular MK Ayelet Shaked to head
a Knesset task force that will be responsible for ensuring the passage of the
Peri Committee’s legislation.
At a meeting of the joint Likud-Yisrael
Beytenu faction, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said the legislation
being drafted must ensure that the Arab sector will also serve.
that what is not done now might have to wait another 65 years.
factions canceled weekly press conferences Monday. Shas officials said they
preferred to watch Likud and Lapid fight rather than talk themselves.
opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich defended the haredim. She said efforts by
Likud and Lapid to obtain credit for forcing haredi conscription would result in
fewer haredim entering the IDF.
“Such cynical political blabber reeks of
narrow political interests,” said Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog. “The
actual goal of equalizing the burden and helping haredim enter the workforce has