Having previously used the fictional Ricki Cohen to get his financial policies across to the public, Lapid resorted to the same device, conjuring up Asher, a 28-year-old father of five from Jerusalem, and Haim, a 16-year-old whippersnapper from the haredi enclave Bnei Brak. "You must understand," he said, engaging in a dialogue with his fictional creations, "that they are out to intimidate you so they could control you."
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Lapid referred to the spiritual leaders of the ultra-Orthodox sector, who, he intimated, resort to belligerent rhetoric to cement their loosening grip on their devotees.
The finance minister further added that "What is ocurring is not an attack on the world of Torah. We have no intention of imposing secular values and our way of life on you, nor our version of 'Israeliness.' This state was created so that people could live as Jews without fear of persecution. Yet we can't go on like this. If Syria is falling apart and thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists are laying siege to our borders, this is your problem as well, and we need you there wielding weapons."
Lapid at the Knesset (Photo: Ohad Zoigenberg)
Lapid then asked his audience to conjure up a scenario where war has broken out and Israel is invaded by its enemies, and everyone is called to arms. "You're called to protect our children from the enemy, and no one budges. They all pretend it is not happening. It is occuring outside your window, just as the economic crisis is going on outside your window and it's time to stop pretending that you don't exist."
"If you believe you have something to contribute, don't hedge yourself, don't close yourself off from us. Our commitment is to accept you as you are. Your commitment is to stop treating us as gentiles. This law will give you the opportunity to remove the barriers of hostility. It will give you an opportunity to improve your situation and make a proper living, to stop counting every shekel."
The Peri Committee approved Wednesday a proposal to extend the transition period for implementation of the draft law by another year – in place of the three years initially proposed, to four years under an agreement between Yesh Atid and the Likud .
The clause in the bill imposing criminal sanctions on draft dodgers including yeshiva students was passed. However, unlike the original agreement, a sub-section which would have allowed the defense minister to intervene on the issue was removed. The law is now expected to go for cabinet approval and then to the Knesset.
Yaakov Peri and Ofer Shelah (Photo: Ohad Zoigenberg)
Taking the stage after Lapid, Head of the Peri Committee Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri vowed the implementation of the criminal sanctions against haredi draft dodgers would be "unflinching."
"The obligation to conscript is the mainstay of the law, and any attempt to breach would be met with uncompromising measures on out side. The status of the haredi draft dodger will be the same as that of the secular draft dodger."
Another member of the committee, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said "We are out to put right a 65-year-old wrong, which has assumed proportions that threaten to undermine the model of the IDF as the people's army. I want to talk to the haredi politicians who participate in the same committees as me and maintain an open dialogue. From now on they must understand that if they want to help the public whose interests which they were elected to represent, they must promote that dialogue."
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