On Tuesday, Netanyahu asked his people to summon Lapid. He was looking for a way out. A compromise which would make him look the way he likes to look: Okay with everyone.
But the attempt to get Lapid, Bennett and Lieberman to sit down, in order to formulate something that everyone would accept, failed. Lapid refused to show up. "There is nothing to discuss," he said. "There will be no compromise."
I had no doubts, Lapid explains, for the simple reason that I had announced that without criminal sanctions we would disband the government. The moment that was said out loud, the indecision was over. I apologize to Lieberman for the plagiarism, but I am also a man of my word.
The criminal sanctions, he says, were approved without any change from what we originally suggested in the Peri Committee. In fact, they are similar to the Yesh Atid platform. In the past few weeks, he says, every single person dealing with the issue broke down at some point, thought it was the time to compromise, to find a mid solution, to concede just a little bit.
But every time they came to me, he says, I reminded them of the same thing: The day Likud ministers tried to organize a "putsch" against Ariel Sharon during the vote on the disengagement, and he remained seated in the Knesset plenum and refused to even go out and talk to the opponents. "Stay put," I told them. "They will break down on their own." And that's what happened.
Lapid sees the equal burden law as a historic triumph. He feels he managed to get everyone to fold, one after the other: Netanyahu, Bennett, Litzman and Gafni, Shaked. That's what I went to the elections for, he says. And if there's a time when I won't have someone else take credit for my victory, it's this time.
The past few months have been quite difficult for the Yesh Atid chairman. He has already admitted more than once that his inexperience made him fail. But on Wednesday he felt some sort of rectification had been made.
"We have been in the Knesset for a year," he says. "During this year a government was established without the haredim, summer time was extended, the outrageous criterion of 'number of years of marriage' for housing grants eligibility was canceled, we cut the budget of non-Zionist yeshivot by half, schools which don't teach core subjects lost a significant part of their budget, we placed Maayan Hahinuch Hatorani (Shas' education network) under full supervision of the Education Ministry and now we passed the equal share, including the criminal sanctions. I think that's quite a good output."
But even Lapid knows there will probably never be equality. This equality law doesn't consider seculars and haredim, dodgers and recruits, hesder yeshivot and regular soldiers as equal. But there is definitely an attempt to atone for the inequality. The most significant thing about to happen here in the coming years is actually the exemption of all haredim starting next month without obligating them to sit in yeshivot, thereby opening the doors for them to enter the labor market.
Another part of the law addresses 2017, when some 5,200 haredim will be drafted each year, which is about one-third of all haredim who were supposed to enlist. If these targets are not met, the criminal sanctions Lapid insisted on will be set in motion. And yet, I find it hard to believe that the haredim shed any tears on Wednesday, unless they were crocodile tears.
The committee did everything possible in order to compromise with the haredim so that they could meet the targets they had set for themselves, and I doubt the criminal sanctions will be fulfilled.
It's quite possible that Lapid is not the only one who's satisfied, but so are they: He sees the current achievement, they see the achievements they will make in the coming years, the amendments to the law which will be applied by the next governments.