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Yesh Atid would quit gov’t over draft bill, Lapid says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid said the party would leave the coalition government if a bill requiring haredi Orthodox yeshiva students to serve in the military does not include criminal sanctions for draft dodgers.

Lapid, the finance minister in the current government, said on the Israel Channel 2 program “Meet the Press” on Saturday night that the criminal sanction should apply to all draft dodgers, not just yeshiva students.

“There is a law that must obligate everyone, and everyone will have to obey it,” he said. “We will not sit in a government that will not pass the draft bill, and it must be real. I won’t accept some kind of camouflage just to stay in the government.”

Yesh Atid made a universal draft law, which it calls Sharing the Burden, one of its major campaign issues.

The Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, with whom Lapid has shared an alliance, opposes jail time for yeshiva students who do not respond to their conscription summonses.

Lapid called the issue of draft dodging “an open wound in the heart of the state.”

On Thursday, haredi Orthodox demonstrators protested nearly $3 million in cuts to yeshiva funding over draft deferrals.

A government committee headed by lawmaker Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home is working to finish revising a universal draft law that already has passed its first reading in the Knesset. The final bill is expected to be brought for its second and third reading in mid-March.

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