Four days before the elections, Yair Lapid has drawn his line in the sand for joining the next coalition – a universal army draft that would ensure equality in shouldering the defense burden.
The day after the election, Yesh Atid intends to put this enlistment plan on the negotiating table as a condition that must be met in order to convince the party to join the government.
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The plan, which was drafted by jurists and professionals, is to be submitted as a law proposal once the new Knesset is sworn in.
According to Lapid's proposal, at the age of 18 every Israeli youth, including Arabs and haredim, are to report to a recruitment center where the IDF will assess where and whether they will serve according to the army's needs.
Those enlisted into combat roles will serve three years and will receive adequate compensation in the form of minimum wages from their second year on, as well as a full scholarship for their bachelor's degree.
Those enlisted to administrative roles will serve only two years and will not receive these perks.
Lapid's initiative (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
The individuals the IDF chooses to exempt from service will be immediately transferred to a civilian recruitment center, which will assign them to different civil service positions that they will fill for two years.
The civil service will be meaningful and authorized by the government; it will include working in hospitals and with Holocaust survivors. A special authority will be founded which will be responsible for the service.
The essence of the program is that the IDF, and not politicians, will decide whether to exempt Arabs and haredim, who largely don't serve in the army, on the basis of the army's needs. Until the day when a civil recruitment center is founded, in some five years, the IDF is to continue its current drafting and exemption practices. In the meantime, ultra-Orthodox youths will be pressed to join the work force in order to lift the heavy burden of funding yeshiva students from the State.
The Lapid initiative, in effect, would cancel the historical arrangements that exempted haredim under the idea that the Torah is their craft. However, the proposed law reserves a quota for some 400 "gifted" yeshiva students who would receive an exemption and continue their studies.
Likud embracing the initiative?The Likud did not reject the initiative flat out and suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might in fact embrace it – much like another outline drafted by Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon six months ago.
"Netanyahu has already announced that he intends to tackle this issue and offer a meaningful solution," a party official said.
"Lapid's outline is not extreme and not that different from the positions of senior coalition members. It is possible that with some changes the proposed initiative will be accepted even by the haredi public," the official said.
Responding to Ya'alon's initiative last year, Shas signaled it would agree to allow the army to draft those not studying. However, party members refused to limit the number of exemptions, arguing that anyone who really wants to study should be exempted from service.
On the one hand there seems to be major discrepancies between Lapid's initiative – which stipulates quotas – and Shas' position. On the other hand, there seems to be leeway over the definition of those "who really want to study," which might allow a compromise to be reached.
"The entrance of tens of thousands of young Israelis as an auxiliary force in different fields will not just change the relations between haredim and Israeli society, but will also drastically improve the state of welfare, health and policing in Israel," Lapid's proposal reads.
Yesh Atid said in a statement that: "The signing of this proposal into law and the promise to implement it immediately – and not an additional committee – is our first and foremost condition for joining the government."
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