Opposition MKs Squabble Over Chareidi Draft Bill

israel draft bill
Yair Lapid, Chairman of Yesh Atid party, speaks during a party faction meeting at the Knesset, Monday. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As the Knesset geared up for a contentious late-night session to debate and vote on the chareidi draft bill Monday, secular MKs were angrily divided over whether to support or oppose it.

Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay accused Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid of betraying IDF soldiers by giving his support to the bill.

“This is what surrender looks like, this is what betrayal against our soldiers looks like, and this is what a party that has crossed over to the other side looks like,” Gabbay said at the start of his faction’s weekly meeting, according to a Ynet report.

“It’s our duty to speak the truth: Not a single chareidi person who didn’t enlist yesterday will enlist tomorrow because of this law. We are in favor of every citizen in Israel carrying the burden. But until that happens, it is our duty to ensure that those who do enlist, those who do serve, those who contributed, will be rewarded with proper pay rather than an insulting living fee that forces working families to have to provide for their sons and daughters serving in the army.”

Lapid responded at his own Yesh Atid’s faction meeting, repeating his claim that the proposed law is merely a copy of the one his party had advanced several years ago.

“This is basically a Yesh Atid law from the previous Knesset, but this time it has been signed both by the IDF and the chief of staff. That’s what we will vote for, for the value of IDF enlistment,” he was quoted as saying.

israel draft bill
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay speaks during a party faction meeting at the Knesset, Monday. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Lapid’s critics have pointed out that the current bill is fundamentally different from that of Yesh Atid’s, among other things because it mandates only financial sanctions, not criminal sanctions, as he would have done.

At a Constitution Law and Justice Committee meeting earlier on Monday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked recalled the actual Yesh Atid position:

“I invested many hours in the last Knesset to convince Lapid and [MK Ofer] Shelah to support economic sanctions, and not criminal sanctions (and implementing obligatory conscription if targets were not met), and I didn’t succeed,” said Shaked, noting that “they preferred populism over substance.”

Undeterred, Lapid continued to pretend to the moral high ground: “Yesh Atid won’t play politics when it comes to such an important issue. I understand that our friends in the opposition decided to turn the vote into a motion of no confidence in order to embarrass us. They’re not embarrassing us. They’re only embarrassing themselves.”

“I’m not voting for the government,” Lapid continued. “It’s a bad government that has to go. But I do vote for good and appropriate laws, because that’s my job as a Knesset member and as someone leading an alternative in the State of Israel.”

Yesh Atid’s vote with the “bad government” could well enable passage of the bill. That, even though the chareidi parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, have said they will vote against it, and the Agudas Yisrael faction of UTJ will leave the coalition if it is passed without satisfactory revisions.