Lapid outlines plans for strictly Orthodox national service

By Jennifer Lipman, May 2, 2012
Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid

The journalist turned politician Yair Lapid has unveiled his vision for Israel and his plan to bring more strictly Orthodox Israelis into the IDF.

Mr Lapid, whose newly established party is called "Yesh Atid", which translates as "there is a future" announced earlier this year that he planned to mount a challenge to the existing Israeli government.

With rumours swirling that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call early elections for September, he will be looking to convince the Israeli public that he represents a viable alternative.

Speaking at his first political rally, the 48-year-old told around 300 supporters that "everyone must serve".

In February the country's Supreme Court ruled that a law allowing strictly Orthodox Jews to defer or limit their army service was unconstitutional and should not be extended.

Mr Lapid said he wanted to legislate for a five-year deferral window for religious conscripts, that would be followed by a compulsory two-year period of alternative civil service.

He said that he wanted the ultra Orthodox to know that "we are not against you," and to tell them not to believe anyone "that says that we hate you".

He added: "But we can't do national service alone.

"There is no anti-Charedi message here. Frankly, we can no longer fund you, and we can no longer serve this country alone."

He said Israeli Arabs would also be asked to serve the country. "You are citizens deserving of rights, but equal rights comes with an equal share of the burden," he said.

On Tuesday, the former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni announced her departure from the Knesset yesterday. Some pundits have suggested she could join Mr Lapid's party, which polls suggest could take 12 seats in the Knesset at the election, making it a valuable coalition partner.

Last updated: 10:43am, May 2 2012