Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid Flash 90

Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) responded Wednesday morning to the Supreme Court decision Tuesday ruling that the government must not fund yeshivas for 18-20 year-old students who have received enlistment orders in the past and not enlisted. 

The ruling was issued despite a decision by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to postpone the enlistment of full-time yeshiva students until the imminent passage of legislation on the tense issue of hareidi enlistment, which hareidi MKs charge is being fueled by hatred, but which proponents say is a fair solution to the exemption of hareidim from the draft.

Nevertheless, Lapid reveled in the ruling during an interview with IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal).

"The 'money-time' has come, and the Supreme Court is saying it's impossible to keep this up," said Lapid. He denied the "criminal sanctions" that are reportedly to be put into the upcoming enlistment law, saying "this is the application of the Security Service Law, which applies to everyone. That expression is insulting to the hareidim - they aren't criminals."

Lapid emphasized his fervent goal to have an "equal burden" in Israeli society, following the Supreme Court's striking down last year of the existing Tal Law that let hareidi yeshiva students defer their army service. A new law to organize hareidi enlistment is reportedly weeks from completion.

"There's equality in obligations and rights, there's no such thing as exclusion from the law," insisted Lapid. "Everyone is equal before the law, and we insist on that. The law (mandating IDF service) was passed in the government and in the Knesset - the Supreme Court is just reminding us that it's the law."

According to Lapid, "if someone wants to be in yeshiva, I'll defend that, but that right doesn't mean the public needs to pay for it. Rights and obligations go together. It's really strange to me that I need to explain this."

'New law will be ready before this ruling means anything'

Meanwhile, MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) reported on the progress of the committee she is heading to draft new enlistment laws, saying "I'm in the middle of the votes; on Monday we decided to pass along the law in the second week of March for a second and third reading."

The Supreme Court decision is not meaningful according to Shaked, because the yeshivas have already received funding for February, and apparently the new law will be passed in time for the next round of funding - suggesting the ruling was little more than political posturing.

Shaked reports that "the law is complicated, and to my mind we must work thoroughly and comprehensively while discussing with the hareidi sector. ...It could be that Supreme Court judges weren't updated on the decision to pass along the law in March."

The MK added that the ruling "doesn't add to the process. You don't change a situation of 65 years in one day, it takes time."

Lapid's erstwhile ally, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, has criticized the ruling, saying that "coming at this stage, (it) makes integrating hareidi men harder, precisely because the Shaked Committee is in the final stages of authorizing a law on enlistment."

Bennett announced this week that "Hareidim will receive 4 years of full exemption to keep them from jail, which a significant portion of them are currently facing," while claiming that "70% of them are not able to study Torah all of their lives."