In Knesset debut, Lapid decries tyranny of religious minority

Yesh Atid leader says ultra-Orthodox community can’t threaten rest of country, calls for ‘equality before the law’

Yair Lapid addresses the Knesset for the first time Monday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yair Lapid addresses the Knesset for the first time Monday. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Speaking in the Knesset for the first time since becoming an MK, Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid lambasted the ultra-Orthodox community, saying the country’s Haredi minority can’t hold the rest of the country hostage.

Lapid stressed that Israel is a democratic country where the rule of law needs to be respected, but said there would not be a “civil war” between secular and Haredi communities.

“There will not be a civil war here; 10% of the population cannot threaten 90%,” Lapid said, referencing threats made by ultra-Orthodox leaders against the possibility of conscripting yeshiva students into the army.

“A civilized society is not run by threats,” Lapid continued, “and if Israel is deterred from acting because of these threats, it renders meaningless the whole idea of democracy.”

United Torah Judaism MK, Menachem Eliezer Mozes, responded that nobody could coerce full-time Torah students to abandon their studies and serve in the IDF. They would rather go to jail, he said, and Israel did not have enough prisons to accommodate them.

Lapid made the ultra-Orthodox draft issue a center of his Knesset campaign, and has reportedly conditioned his entrance into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on the passage of a law that would see most eligible members of the Haredi community conscripted into the army.

Under the now-expired Tal Law, yeshiva students could defer conscription, but the measure was ruled unconstitutional last year, forcing the government to come up with a way to force the ultra-Orthodox into uniform, or find another way to let them defer.

Referencing David Ben-Gurion, Lapid said that Israel’s unwillingness to act on tough issues brought the former prime minister out of retirement. He claimed that a similar situation exists today: women being forced to the back of buses; settler vandalism; and rampant crime in certain areas.

“This is not democracy, this is anarchy,” he continued. “This is the rule of the minority over the majority.”

Lapid stressed that the draft was not the only area where all members of society would have to contribute. Lapid said his vision for Israel would include “equality before the law, the aspiration for peace, the obligation to provide every child a proper education, and an equitable distribution of resources.”

Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is composed exclusively of Knesset newcomers, and he has promised to bring change to the current political system.

He said that funds for government services should stop being allocated “according to party or coalition,” saying instead they should be disbursed according to public interest.

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