Haredi draft debate spurs Lapid threat to bring down gov’t

A haredi Orthodox man watching Israeli soldiers at an army ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Feb. 22, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90/JTA)

A haredi Orthodox man watching Israeli soldiers at an army ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Feb. 22, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90/JTA)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid threatened to bring down the Israeli government if a bill requiring the enlistment of haredi Orthodox men does not include imprisonment for avoiding conscription.

Lapid, who serves as finance minister, made the threat on Monday during a party meeting following marathon talks the previous night of the Peri Committee, also known as the Knesset Committee for Promoting Equal Share of the Burden.

The committee became deadlocked over a disagreement between its chairman, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over whether to imprison haredim who dodge the draft.

Ya’alon said the final decision should be left in the hands of the defense minister.

The committee was scheduled to continue its debate on Monday.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Lapid wrote, “We will not sit in a government not willing to move on the issue of an equal share of burden. There is an historic opportunity to right an historic wrong, a bleeding wound in the heart of Israeli society. Whoever is out to compromise this opportunity in order to make political gains undercuts Israel, Zionism, the IDF and every young Israeli who has ever entered an induction center.”

On Sunday night, the committee decided to extend the service of national religious soldiers at hesder yeshivas, which combine military service and religious studies, from 16 to 17 months instead of the originally suggested 24 months.

The panel rejected a Yisrael Beiteinu party proposal requiring the conscription of Israeli Arabs.

The Peri Committee was set up last year and charged with integrating the haredi Orthodox community into Israel’s military after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in February 2012 that the Tal Law, which had allowed haredi men to defer army service, was unconstitutional.

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