Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said on Monday with regard to the issue of haredi enlistment in the army that yeshiva students who are studying Torah should be allowed to continue their studies and not be forced to enlist in national service programs.

Speaking with haredi station Radio Kol Hai, Bennett added that his party would “fight against legislation which would coercively draft” yeshiva students.

“We will be a partner which will fight for Torah study in Israel, and we will fight against laws that coerce service,” Bennett said.

“Whoever is learning Torah should continue to learn Torah, full stop,” he continued.

“This is my stance from the beginning. Although it’s not always easy to explain this to our secular brothers, my way is to explain that the Jewish people have existed for thousands of years in exile because of Torah, and in the State of Israel we need to strengthen this.”

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The Bayit Yehudi leader did say, however, that there was a problem with men who do not perform national service but who are not studying either, and that such people need to be integrated into the work force.

“I will support someone who is able to get up early in the morning to learn and sanctify their lives; there is nothing harder than this. Someone who does not, I expect him to join Israeli society.”

Yisrael Beytenu, which has focused heavily on the issue of haredi enlistment, condemned Bennett’s comments, saying that his position “would ensure that there will be no support for a true equalization in the burden of national service.”

“It seems that Bennett has no interest in changing the situation,” a Yisrael Beytenu spokesman said.

Idan Miller, one of the leaders of the Camp Sucker movement campaigning for haredi enlistment in national service and a candidate on the The Tzipi Livni party list, also denounced Bennett’s comments, and said that he was “promoting the shirker ideology of the haredim.”

“Bennett has removed the liberal mask from his face, and anyone who bears the burden of service in this country has to know that these are Bennett’s positions, and should therefore discount Bayit Yehudi as an option in the elections,” Miller said.

During the interview, Bennett took the opportunity to call for the religious establishment and institutions to be made more accessible and user friendly to the secular public.

In an apparent nod to the national-religious rabbinical association Tzohar, Bennett focused on what he described as the negative experience secular couples have when approaching their local rabbinates to get married, and said that “greater efforts must be made to embrace the secular public and explain” Jewish laws and values to them.

He also criticized the rabbinate as a “machine for dolling out jobs” and said it was “no surprise that young couples are going to Cyprus to get married.”

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