Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid is threatening to pull his party out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government if the status quo on drafting Haredi yeshiva students does not change.
Lapid met late Tuesday with Communications Minister Yaakov Peri, the former Shin Bet chief and fellow party member who led the Knesset committee formed to deal with the issue of national service for yeshiva students.
At the close of the meeting, the two issued an ultimatum to the government, in particular to Habayit Hayehudi: Without criminal action on draft-dodging, not only would there be no law on the draft, there would also be no coalition.
Drafting haredi men into national service has been a hot-button issue in Israel for may years, with many complaining that the sector does not "share the burden" of protecting the country, while receiving massive amounts of state funds. Yesh Atid, the second-largest party in the Knesset, made the draft of Haredi men into the IDF one of the platforms of its election campaign.
The Tal Law, which exempted yeshiva students from serving in the army, expired in summer 2012 and work on a new law began, that would see Haredi men of draft age enlisted. In the meantime, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has repeatedly deferred the draft of the tens of thousands of yeshiva students eligible to serve in the army.
But on Tuesday night, the High Court ordered the suspension of funds to yeshiva students who should be in the army, sparking outrage in the Haredi community, which has consistently opposed its members performing national service.
Peri and Lapid, who met in Peri's house after the court decision was handed down, decided that the judicial ruling meant that there had to be criminal prosecution for anyone who dodged their military service. "The draft law which supposed to be presented to the Knesset in the coming weeks will not pass without criminal sanctions (provision)," said Peri. "This will be a real draft law and a red line for us regarding the future of the coalition."
Peri told Yedioth that the proposed law for "sharing the burden" will for the first time enshrine in law that the Haredi public must enlist or face criminal prosecution. The court ruling, he said, only reinforced the urgency for a law that would put the issue in order after many years.
Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked leads the committee preparing the law, which is supposed to be presented for vote in the Knesset next month. Responding to the Yesh Atid ultimatum, Shaked said Tuesday night that the panel is in the final stages of its work, before its submission to the Knesset on March 10 as decided. "It is worthwhile to let the Knesset do its job in an orderly fashion. The committee has done serious work as demanded by a complicated law such as this," she said.