(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid came out swinging on Wednesday morning against the government’s plan to alter the draft equality law passed in the last Knesset, which aimed at conscripting haredi men into the military.
Lapid made his comments in front of IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, where draft-equality supporters again erected a protest tent where they campaigned publicly in 2012 and 2013 for haredi men to be drafted.
Speaking alongside other MKs and campaign leaders, MK Lapid accused the haredi political parties of extorting the government to pass the amendment on the 2014 law, which he said has been effective. He insisted that the value of equal rights for all citizens in the country should come before politics.
“What they are abolishing right now is the principle of equality, which states that if my son doesn’t go to enlist they will come and arrest him, but if there is a party which can extort the government then no one will come and arrest their children and they continue with what they are doing,” said Lapid.
Haredi parties Untied Torah Judaism and Shas made it clear to the prime minister that they will not allow the 2016 budget to pass this month before the amendment to the law for haredi enlistment is approved.
“We are not against haredim. It is just a basic principle of equality before the law,” Lapid continued, arguing that the law is working and increasing numbers of haredi men are enlisting in the army and joining the workforce.
He claimed there has been a 40 percent increase in IDF enlistment of haredi men and a 300% increase in haredi men joining the workforce.
Statistics presented to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on IDF Manpower earlier this week showed there was a 22% increase in haredi enlistment for 2014 over the 2013 figures.
However, before the 2014 law – which was passed at the behest of Yesh Atid – came into effect, haredi enlistment was already on an upward trend. The numbers of haredi men who enlisted in 2013 was 28% higher than the 2012 figures, and 2012 haredi enlistment was up 13% from 2011.
In the six months of 2014 after the law was passed, haredi enlistment actually dropped significantly, against the trend. This drop was attributed to the caustic public and political debate over the issue and its effect on the haredi public.
Representatives of the National Union of Israeli Students were also at the protest tent and expressed anger with the government for backtracking on the 2014 law.
“We are sick and tired of deals being made over our heads for the sake of the survival of the coalition, and we ask how can we have any faith in politicians that forget the people?” said NUIS head Gilad Arditi.
Arditi emphasized that the students’ efforts are not intended to change haredi society. “We are aware of the differences and the complexity of the issue. We came to eliminate old and built-in discrimination in an effort to achieve a more united society,” he said.
According to the NUIS head, the student body represents more than 30% of reservists and – together with young graduates – constitutes the majority of reservists serving in the IDF today.
“The government of Israel must decide – a professional army or the people’s army. We, as students, have decided – a people’s army. We say ‘enough.’ The days of tricks and shticks are over,” Arditi said.