At the start of the debate Wednesday morning of the Perry Committee recommendations regarding “equal burden,” a popular euphemism that stands for (to be blunt) “those Haredi parasites better get off their warm benches and lie down in the trenches with the rest of us,” Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, a senior member of the Jewish Home Knesset delegation, pointed out the coalition agreements signed between his own party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, and made it clear that there was an official understanding in those agreements regarding the conscription of Haredim: there would be no criminal sanctions against Haredim who refuse to serve.
Minister Ariel went on to suggest that Yesh Atid has a hidden agenda in this case, an agenda that has little to do with the ultimate purpose of peacefully integrating the Haredim into the Army and, later, into a normative, productive life.
Over the past few months, since the national elections in which Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish home took in 31 Knesset seats (out of 120), the brotherly partnership between those two parties has been under great public scrutiny, as we’ve all been awaiting that one issue that would force them into opposite corners of the coalition chamber.
Because, let’s face it, ideologically there are vast differences between them. The main thing they agree on is a loose understanding of the free market, which neither one has truly upheld when it came to legislation (Paul Rand would probably consider both Lapid and Bennett rabid communists…).
If you were looking to bet the average Israeli news junky, they would probably have given you odds on the settlements, the 2-state solution, Judea and Samaria, annexed East Jerusalem, E-4n – any one of these hot potato issues was most likely to tear up the perpetual, occasionally nauseating hug between Yair and Naftali.
Turns out it might be the Haredi draft—an issue both parties and both leaders agree on nearly 100 percent. Both parties believe Haredim should serve and should go to work. But the Lapid folks are insisting—as of two days ago—that criminal penalties against Haredim refusing to serve are an essential component of the proposed new law – and Lapid declared he’s prepared to walk out of the coalition government over it.
It’s kind of a Sarah Palin move, if you ask me, except she abandoned her elected office half way through her first term, and Lapid has barely warmed his Finance Minister’s abacus.
The decision to play this kind of hardball came from Lapid, or Lapid’s advisors (I’m thinking Ehud Olmert). But it definitely involves the entire Yesh Atid delegation. Rabbi Shai Piron, a Yesh Atid MK, Education Minister and former dean of a yeshiva, told Ynet: “The parasites will not receive a kosher certificate.”
Seriously? This kind of provocative, and, frankly, antisemitic language, is a sign that the kindly minister (he really is a very nice man) had received his marching orders: rev up the engine, it’s time to score some points.
Minister Ariel accused them of just that: “We asked to be kept in the loop,” he told Jacob Pery and the Yesh Atid reps around the committee table. “You did not act fairly when you prevented communication over the past two days,” he pushed on. “I asked three times” for information “and was rejected. There used to be an understanding between the two parties – a common path. And now it’s being stepped on rudely. I don’t understand what it’s for and why there’s a need to undo the agreements which we spent so many nights and hours laboring over every word written in them.”
And then a representative of the Justice Ministry stated: “We never said it was impossible to impose economic sanctions.”
Justice – that the purview of Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician who gives narcissism a bad name. Together, Lapid and Tzipi are dreaming of a day when Haredim will be arrested and impoverished, possibly with the same police raid.
Never mind that Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has been telling anyone who would listen that, as far as he’s concerned, there will not be any mention of sanctions – economic or criminal – in the new draft bill. After all, Yaalon is just in charge of the IDF, which will be charged with applying the new law. Why would Lapid want to be tougher on Haredi recruits than the guy in charge of the Army?
For the same reason Lapid as Finance Minister has curtailed child support for large families. His voters – largely left wing, bourgeois Tel Avivians devoted to their Labrador retrievers and 4-wheel drive jeeps – are getting satisfaction just seeing the Haredim squirm. They—as a class and as individuals—perceive Haredim and Arabs as “the other,” and want them to hurt. That’s why they voted for Yair Lapid, just as they had done his late father, Tommy Lapid.
The other reason is that, as it is becoming clearer that Yair Lapid is not God’s gift to the Israeli economy (he’s really no gift at all) – the thinking is, if he stays in office another 3 or 4 years, the fate of Yesh Atid would be just like Kadima and all the other “centrist” parties that have sprouted in the wedge between Likud and Labor: they would shrink to 1 or 2 MKs.
Yesh Atid is like the Woody Allen shark metaphor from Annie Hall: “A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
Yesh Atid has to constantly be running to the Knesset, because it is not good at all at governing. And as long as they keep running, there’s a chance no one would notice.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published two fun books: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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