Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid warned on Monday that if the government wants to stay in power, it will have to approve a committee’s recommendation on “equal burden,” including criminal actions against draft dodgers.
“If anyone thinks I entered politics only to solve the economic disaster that the previous government left in behind, they are making a big mistake, said the finance minister.
Lapid is proving himself to be a smart politician. He has the secular anti-Haredi public’s vote in his pocket, no matter what. He can scream to the rafters over compromises on the “Peri Committee” recommendations for equal military service for citizens – well, at least for Jews – and can still agree to a compromise.
His threat to “dissolve the coalition” is real, but neither he nor the anti-Haredi public will mind if a small compromise is made because they know that a political bird in the hand is worth two doubtful birds in the bush. The alternative is a new coalition – probably one with Haredim – or new elections. Both options are really non-starters.
His party took home 19 seats to catapult his fledgling party into the number two spot, behind Likud Beiteinu, on the strength of his demand for equal burden in the draft, a break for the middle class and concessions to the Palestinian Authority for the sake of a peace agreement.
In fact, he has taken positions four-square against the demands of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Lapid even has sounded like a mild nationalist, stating that Jerusalem cannot be divided and making the totally impractical suggestion that Abbas take a step back and agree for interim borders for a new PA state. He even has approved funding for Ariel University located in central Samaria.
Concessions to the Haredim on the military draft is his red line, as he made clear on Monday after Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, argued against the Peri panel’s recommendations for criminal charges against draft dodgers.
He said he “does not want to see a police battalion” storm Bnei Brak to arrests Haredim draft evaders.
As with most apparent political crises in Israel, the hot air is a warning to the other side not to try to throw too much cold water on an issue, which in this case is the draft. After all of the thunder and lightning, some kind of compromise will be reached, such as changing the tone of the clause requiring criminal action against draft dodgers in return for extending the military draft for Hesder yeshiva students.
All of the noise has another advantage. It drowns out any mention of the massive draft dodging among many secular Israelis, the ones who voted for Lapid.
The drum beats for dissolving the coalition and risking new elections also silences any reminder about any obligation for the Arab sector.
If Bennett does not want to see a police battalion deployed in Bnei Brak, Lapid would fall over himself before allowing a police battalion to enter Umm-al-Fahm, home of the northern branch of the radical Islamic Movement.
Likud Beiteinu Tourism Minister Uzi Landau asked on Sunday why the Peri Committee did not recommend forcing Israeli Arabs to fulfill a duty of national service.
One obvious reason is that while there is a political benefit from taking aim at the Haredi public, no one is going to switch political support for someone who makes demands of the Arab sector.
Besides, the police would not dare storm Umm-al-Fahm.
And Lapid knows that Bnei Brak would not be a piece of cake, either.