Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett decided on Wednesday to reject a offer from
Likud Beytenu of the Education Ministry, a top socioeconomic portfolio, and a
deputy defense minister who would deal with settlements, a source close to
Bennett did not like the way the offer was made via the
press with a 48-hour take-it-or- leave-it ultimatum attached to it.
Yehudi officials said they would only deal with portfolios once they received
answers on key ideological questions.
“Since the election, the Likud has
been acting against Bayit Yehudi,” a source close to Bennett said. “They
attacked us non-stop during the election. Then they called every party but us
and met with Meretz before us. Then they announced to the press that [Prime
Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu would meet with us, but did not call us for three
days. Here again, they made us an offer on TV and only called us a day
later. This is not serious. It smells like a trick to lower the price of
the other parties.”
Bayit Yehudi officials said the Education portfolio
was clearly included in the deal to pressure Yesh Atid and the Religious
Services Ministry was floated to annoy Shas.
They recalled that the head
of Bayit Yehudi’s negotiating team, MK Uri Ariel, made a deal with the Likud for
the National Union party four years ago but then the Likud abandoned the deal,
signed an agreement with Labor, and refused to return Ariel’s
Bennett’s associates made a point of rejecting the Likud Beytenu’s
offer in the press because they received the offer via the press. They said
Bennett did not receive any calls from officials in his party or
religious-Zionist rabbis urging him to accept the offer.
Drori, the municipal rabbi of Kiryat Shmona and a leading figure in the
national-religious world, said on Wednesday that any plan to increase haredi
enlistment by coercive or forceful methods would cause upheaval in Israeli
society and wouldn’t work.
“Even [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid knows
this,” Drori said. “Maybe his current position is a negotiating tactic, because
anyone who goes down the path of coercion doesn’t understand Israeli society,”
The rabbi said that the plan proposed by Strategic Affairs
Minister Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud was a “more realistic” approach to
increasing the number of haredim performing various forms of national service,
and that the national-religious rabbinic leadership was strongly opposed to the
idea of imposing quotas on the number of yeshiva students able to get exemptions
from military service in order to study full time.
Drori emphasized the
importance of physical and economic security alongside the spiritual well-being
of the state, and added that Bennett “had been even sharper than me” in his
defense of the importance of preserving Torah study in Israel.
noted that the rabbinic leadership was in ongoing contact with the Bayit Yehudi
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, municipal rabbi of Beit El,
dean of the Ateret Yerushalayim Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and another
leading figure in the national-religious community, similarly rejected the idea
of imposing a universal draft on haredi yeshiva students but said it was a
mitzva, a religious obligation in Jewish law, to serve in the army in order to
protect Jewish lives, protect the Land of Israel and sanctify God’s
“We need to gain the trust of the haredi world and the deans of
their yeshivas, in order to get more haredi men to enlist and we need to be
tolerant because coercion won’t work,” said Aviner, adding that “men of faith
and spirituality” were vital to the state.
The rabbi refused to comment
on the current political wrangling on the issue, however, saying that he would
not address the different positions being presented on the issue in the current
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.