Gabbay accuses Lapid of betraying IDF soldiers
Labor chairman slams Yesh Atid leader over his party’s intention to vote in favor of IDF draft bill at the Knesset on Monday, saying ‘this is what surrender looks like’ by ‘a party that chose to cross over to the other side and give up our values’; Lapid: Our friends in the opposition are only embarrassing themselves.
“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 the weekly Zionist Union faction meeting.
The IDF draft bill, which includes planned cuts to the yeshivot's budgets and the use of economic incentives to pressure the Torah study institutions to encourage enlistment, but no criminal sanctions, was approved by the government on Sunday.
Ultra-Orthodox parties have threatened to vote against the bill at the Knesset on Monday, while Lapid’s opposition faction plans to vote in favor of the law.
The enlistment objectives, as stated in the proposal, are that 3,000 yeshiva students will be drafted in the first stage and 600 will volunteer for national service. The plan will be given a two-year adaptation period, in which sanctions won’t be imposed if the yeshivot fail to meet the draft rates. In the third year, yeshivot who fail to encourage enlistment will be hit with economic sanctions if they drop below a 95-percent target.
“Today," Gabbay said, "we will see Yesh Atid’s surrender at the Knesset after it panicked over public opinion polls and stopped believing that our camp can win. It chose to cross over to the other side, to give up our values and opinions.
“It’s a party that says that if you can’t win them—join them. A party takes votes from our camp, which seeks to change the government, and simply hands them out to (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (Defense Minister Avigdor) Lieberman. I’m genuinely asking, what happened? You lost a few seats in the polls, so you went upside down? Betraying the voters and the entire public," he added.
“It’s our duty to speak the truth: Not a single Haredi 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 di contributed, will be rewarded with proper pay rather than an insulting living fee that forces working families have to provide for their sons and daughters serving in the army.
“I call on our friends in Yesh Atid to recalculate their route and vote against this shady deal,” Gabbay concluded. “Be on the soldiers’ side, not on the other side.”
Lapid responded to Gabbay’s accusations during Yesh Atid’s faction meeting, saying that the Zionist Union was embarrassing itself.
“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 said.
“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 clarified. “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.”
'No one understands what national responsibility means'
Earlier Monday, in an interview at the Ynet studio, Lapid said the draft bill was good and slammed a fellow minister in the previous government, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had drafted the Yesh Atid-proposed law with him.
“This bill was born out of our victory in the High Court,” Lapid said in the interview.
“Now we have a bill that is very similar to the one drafted by Yesh Atid during the previous government, but this time with a signature from the chief of staff and the IDF, the changes are minor,” he continued.
When asked about whether he, as a leader of the opposition party, should working to bring down the Netanyahu government instead of saving it, Lapid replied: “No one in this country understands anymore what national responsibility means... More Haredim will be drafted, more Haredim will join the workforce... You should know this law would not have brought down the government... It’s nonsense to suggest that.”
The Yesh Atid leader also reiterated that the amendment does include criminal punishment.
“There are criminal sanctions in this bill. If they don’t meet the target after three years, sanctions will automatically be activated and people will go to prison. Military service evasion would also lead to jail,” Lapid claimed.
Lapid was also asked whether he was worried about the fact that secular public would feel he betrayed them or was trying to suck up to the religious sector.
“That’s nonsense,” he replied. “We’ve been in this battle for the past six years. We know all the details, know how to work with it...this bill is ours and the signatures of the IDF and the chief of staff only validate the bill’s moral stance,” exclaimed member of Knesset.
“If I were sucking up, would I have appealed to the High Court and made all this fuss?” Lapid continued. “We’re the most consistent party here. The claims that I will join Netanyahu are exaggerated. I haven’t talked to him in months, I didn’t coordinate with him and I don’t speak to his office,” he concluded.
Shaked: Lapid’s statement is an utter lie
Justice Minister Shaed responded to Lapid’s claims that the current bill is almost identical to the one he drafted with her in the previous term.
“The statement that the new bill is his is an utter lie. I’ve never come across a politician who lies so brazenly,” she raged.
“This lie has a goal, the journalists and politicians. Everyone was aware of the argument I had with MK Lapid and Ofer Shelah during the previous government. I begged to only include the economic sanctions in the amendment since I thought it would be the right thing and they’d refused,” Shaked continued.
"In this bill, the power is at the hands of the defense minister, as opposed to Lapid’s stance in the previous bill and so I’m surprised that he doesn’t have the courage to say ‘I’ve changed my mind. The insistence on mandatory draft was unnecessary,” she exclaimed.
Regarding the current amendment to the Draft Law, the justice minister says she is satisfied with it.
“The amendment is good. It fits into the current reality. No one thinks that it’s possible to draft the Haredim and there won’t be true equality. We need to tell the truth. Nevertheless, it’s better to draft this bill in cooperation with the Haredi as opposed of going against them, which would only lower the number of those who are either drafted or those who enter the workforce,” she concluded.
Former Knesset Member Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, called on Lapid to not support the bill.
“This bill is a lighter version of the Tal Law. There are positive aspects to it like the focus on the increasing recruitment targets but the targets are really low and there are no effective and trusted mechanisms in order to enforce them. The most important thing we should pay attention to is whether the bill would affect the conscription model in the future, if we would be able to continue with this military model,” exclaimed the former lawmaker.
The bill, which constitutes an amendment to the Defense Service Law led by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has been subjected to countless changes over the last few years.
The existing Israeli Defense Service Law expires in September after the High Court of Justice deemed it unconstitutional, and so the Knesset must pass an alternative law before then.
Immediately after the approval of the bill in the first reading, the state is expected to ask for an extension from the High Court in order to complete finalizing the legislation and getting a final approval of the amendment to the law in second and third reading.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation headed by Justice Minister Shaked convened Monday morning to approve the outline and prepare it for the Knesset vote.
Yesh Atid was heavily attacked by the opposition on Sunday due to their support of the bill, which in their view will not bring true equality. Zionist Union members even visited the homes of Yesh Atid MKs in order to convince them to withdraw their support for it.