Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid Flash 90

Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke Saturday night about the new hareidi enlistment law which will be brought before the Knesset in the coming weeks. Lapid threatened that his Yesh Atid party will leave the coalition government if "criminal sanctions" on hareidi draft-dodgers are not included.

Speaking to Channel 2, Lapid claimed that the new law has majority support, even while warning "if there won't be criminal sanctions we'll leave the government." Lapid asked for the sanctions not to be called as such, saying "there's a Security Service Law (compelling enlistment) that needs to be applied to everyone, and will be applied to everyone."

The minister added "it's an unnecessary insult to the hareidim to say 'criminal sanctions,' they aren't criminals," reiterating earlier statements to that effect.

Last Thursday saw intense protests of thousands of hareidim in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Ashdod, which were sparked by Lapid's decision to retroactively cut funding for all yeshivas following a Supreme Court decision. The decision called on the government to annul funds for yeshivas with students whose draft was postponed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon until the new law arranged their enlistment.

In response to the protests, Lapid quipped "we weren't surprised by the size of the protests. We knew that we're approaching a social revolution and that it will be difficult, therefore everyone in the past was afraid to deal with it. We aren't afraid, it's an open wound in the heart of the country, and we will pass the Equal Burden Law."

"It will be a painful period. When you have a revolution you need to take into account that there will be threats and anger. You need to be patient and firm for a large principle," pontificated Lapid.

Hareidi MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) last Thursday accused Lapid of manipulating the situation for political gain, saying "he doesn't want us in the army, he wants hareidi violence on the streets. That gives him mandates."

This "long period of pushing the hareidim to the wall that will bring extremism," warned Asher. "This is how the 'hilltop youth' phenomenon started when the right-wing felt pushed to the wall."

Meanwhile Lapid claimed he was making outreach to hareidi rabbis "under the radar," claiming "we sit and talk with leaders of the hareidi society, us seculars also need to understand their side."

'After territorial evacuations we'll all be different people'

On other fronts, Lapid expressed optimism about the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA). "If we continue on the path we're on for a length of time, being cautious and guarding our interests, we can reach an agreement with the Palestinians."

"When it ends and there's an arrangement that includes territorial evacuations or changes, we'll all be different people who overcame the biggest shake-up since 1948," opined Lapid. "Therefore, the caution that maybe looks like hesitancy from the outside is the right thing."

Last Saturday, Lapid cut off funding to Judea and Samaria following a far-left journalist's claims that money was being transferred to the region's Yesha Council. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly offered to give the PA control of over 90% of Judea and Samaria.

Lapid's stance against Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria has been praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose peace plans include an Arab capital in Jerusalem.