Focusing his political campaign from the get-go on the burden placed by ultra-Orthodox Jews on the rest of Israeli society, the country’s newest would-be political leader, ex-TV news presenter Yair Lapid, told ultra-Orthodox Jews Tuesday: “We don’t hate you, we just can’t financially support you any more.”
Addressing supporters of his newly formed Yesh Atid (There is a future) party at his first political rally, Lapid, the son of former cabinet minister Yosef Lapid, asserted that the Haredi community’s political representatives were trying to redefine Israeli society for the worse.
His intention, he said, was to reach out to ultra-Orthodox rabbinical leaders over the heads of the ultra-Orthodox politicians. “We are not against you. Don’t believe anyone that says that we hate you,” he said. “But we can’t do national service alone… Everyone must serve.”
Lapid vowed to legislate for universal service — either in the army or other national service — to replace the Tal Law, which was struck down earlier this year by the High Court as unconstitutional.
At a rally attended by some 300 supporters at the Beit Hatfusot Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, he said the current political parties could not be trusted to take action on the “pragmatically and morally failed” Tal Law, given their years of indifference.
“Every one (of the parties) had an opportunity to change the law; they preferred to stay in line with the government,” said Lapid. National service should not be seen as an obligation, but as a right, he said.
Lapid said that the middle class is on the brink of collapse, and is simply no longer able to support the Haredi community. Therefore, he suggested that for the next five years, until his planned new legislation on universal service had its impact, all ultra-Orthodox men should be allowed to enter the workforce even if they had not performed military or other national service.
Among those present was IDF general (ret.) Elazar Stern, the army’s former chief education officer, who is Orthodox and who has campaigned for wider ultra-Orthodox service. No members of the Haredi community were present.
Polls suggest Yesh Atid party could win some 12 seats in the next elections. Were Tzipi Livni, the former Kadima leader, to join, that number could rise to 16.
“I am entering politics to fix things, and I’ll stay in politics until these changes are achieved. Politics is my second career after the media, and I will not have a third,” said Lapid.
Earlier this week, Lapid also said he was “not entering politics in order to sit in the opposition.”