Journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid held on Tuesday evening the first conference of his new party, Yesh Atid.
During the conference, Lapid outlined his version of the alternative to the Tal Law, which exempts hareidi-religious soldiers from service in the IDF, and is at the heart of a controversy which will lead to early Knesset elections.
In his remarks Lapid directly address the hareidim and said, “I’m not anti-hareidi, there's no anti-hareidi message here, but we cannot pay for you and we cannot serve our country alone. We are telling the hareidim: you are Israeli citizens like us and we all have the same rights and obligations. We want to propose a model that will offer both mutual respect and livelihood - it's not an order from above that you will always be the poor sector in the country.”
He added, “We do not want to enter Bnei Brak with tanks and turn this into a civil war. We want to flush the bums out of the yeshivot.”
Lapid’s plan, as outlined during the conference, would give, in the first stage, an automatic exemption from serving in the IDF to all hareidim. This, he claimed, would lead to many hareidim leaving the yeshivot and finding employment.
The second stage of the plan would be implemented five years later and as part of it, every citizen who turns 18 will be required to enlist in the army or perform civil service. The size of the army will be determined by a multi-year plan which will be tailored to Israel’s security needs. Combat troops and combat support soldiers will serve for three years under the plan and all other soldiers will serve for two years. Soldiers who serve three years will receive minimum wage, starting in their second year of military service, and upon their release from the army will receive a full scholarship for undergraduate students.
Those who refuse to serve, according to Lapid’s plan, will lose all their rights to benefits and scholarships with the exception of national insurance.
Lapid later directly addressed the Arab public and said, “We also want to integrate you in civil service as citizens in our society. Will you be able to be fill citizens if you do not like that?”
He laid the blame for the current situation on Israeli politicians, saying, “The existing situation is unfair, immoral and impractical. It splits the country in half – those who serve and those who do not serve, those who are partners and those who are not partners, those who are more equal and those who are less equal. Forgive me if, in spite of their statements, I do not trust Kadima, Labor and Likud to do the job for us - the public which serves, works and pays taxes.”
He added, “I do not trust those politicians who have proven that you cannot trust them. All the major parties have headed the coalition over the last 30 years and they all did nothing. Each one in turn raised his hand and voted for the Tal Law, thus extending the exemptions and releasing hundreds of thousands of young people from service. They knew it was immoral, that it eats us from the inside and brings us to social and economic doom, and yet they still raised their hands.”
Polls so far have shown that Lapid’s party will likely take voters mostly from Kadima and Labor. A New Wave poll carried out for the Yisrael Hayom newspaper this week showed that Lapid would receive 12 seats.
However, it has been speculated that if Tzipi Livni, who resigned from the Knesset on Tuesday, were to join Lapid’s party, they would achieve many more seats and possibly become the second largest party after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud.