If Yair Lapid doesn’t learn that leadership involves compromise he will find himself in the opposition, Shas chairman Eli Yishai warned on Thursday.
“Sure the prime minister wants Lapid in the government, but the prime minister wants everyone in the coalition. It will be a tough job and it will take time, but I believe [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s hopes for a broad coalition will be achieved,” said Yishai, noting that Shelly Yachimovich’s decision to remain outside the coalition made matters harder by limiting the number of possible combinations.
Yishai said the central issue preventing the formation of a coalition was the future government’s commitment to legislating a universal draft, which the religious parties vehemently oppose and Lapid’s Yesh Atid party demands as a precondition for entering the government.
“The bone of contention is the treatment of the ‘world of Torah,’” said Yishai, using a shorthand term for the status quo which enables ultra-Orthodox men to avoid the mandatory draft as long as they study in religious institutions. “It is all right to disagree about it, but pushing the issue risks tearing Israeli society apart.”
The Shas chairman said he was prepared to be flexible on drafting ultra-Orthodox youth, noting that he himself had served in the military as had many of his family members. But the other side had to bend as well, he insisted.
“Equal share of the burden is a nice ideal, but not everybody is equal. Even in the army, there are those who serve in the field and those who serve behind a desk. As soon as there are more avenues to serve in, more people will enlist, either to military service or national service,” Yishai said.
Lapid on Wednesday released a statement saying he saw Torah study as “part of the existential fabric of Israel” and praised those who devoted themselves to it full time. But there was no excuse for not teaching English and mathematics to young children in the ultra-Orthodox community, he wrote, or “for 18-year-olds not serving their country, or for 28-year-olds not entering the workforce.”
Meanwhile, Lapid made his peace with some Arab MKs in a phone call to Ra’am-Ta’al party leader Ahmed Tibi.
Arab MKs were offended at a comment Lapid made after the elections amid talk of him joining a left-wing opposition bloc. Lapid said at the time that he rejected the idea of an opposition that would rely on “Zoabis,” a reference to Arab MK Hanin Zoabi of Balad. Zoabi caused outrage in 2010 when she joined the Mavi Marmara ferry that was part of a flotilla that tried to break the naval blockade on Gaza.
Many Arab MKs took the comment as a general reference to them. However, Lapid reportedly told Tibi that he was referring to Zoabi in particular and did not intend it as a general statement. Lapid explained that in a similar way he would not agree to a bloc that relied on extreme right-wing MKs. Tibi accepted the explanation and said there was no longer any tension between the two.