Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s next government could end up being more colorful and feature less people who wear black, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin suggested recently in a panel discussion at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute.

Elkin spoke at a forum that dealt with the possibility of a coalition without haredi parties.

The event was closed to the press, but in a tape of the discussion that reached Ma’ariv political reporter Ze’ev Kam, Elkin said a coalition without Shas and United Torah Judaism was likely.

“The haredi parties are not going with our bloc,” Elkin said. “For a long time I have been saying that there is no such thing as a right-wing bloc in this election unlike the last election, because the haredi parties are saying they will go with the bloc that will help them settle the problem of exemptions from the IDF.”

The Likud MK said the working assumption of the haredim was that the Left was more likely to solve the problem of haredi conscription to their benefit, something he said had been proven correct historically.

“When the haredim joined left-wing governments, they dealt with matters of religion and state quicker, easier and quieter,” Elkin said.

Back in October, United Torah Judaism warned that it would seriously consider joining a coalition government of the Center-Left bloc instead of the Right.

“We’re not beholden to Bibi [Netanyahu], we’re not in his hands, and we won’t automatically go with the right bloc,” a UTJ official told The Jerusalem Post.

Another Likud official suggested it had become less likely Shas would be in the next coalition because Arye Deri, who joined the party’s leadership triumvirate, had publicly insulted Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

Speaking to the Post, Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev poured cold water on Elkin’s comments, saying that that the Likud man had got his numbers wrong regarding the possibility of forming a government without the haredi parties.

“He who takes up his sword should not boast like someone who has successfully used it,” quipped Ze’ev, quoting from the biblical Book of Kings and questioning Likud-Beytenu’s ability to increase its share of the vote in the coming election.

“Without the haredi parties they’ll need the leftists but this new [Likud-Beytenu joint list] has become right-wing plus, and their diplomatic policies are too different from that of Labor and Lapid for them to join together in a coalition,” Ze’ev argued.

“Furthermore, the members of Netanyahu’s own party won’t let him take that step,” he continued.

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Regarding Elkin’s claim that religious demands of the haredi parties may be incompatible with Likud-Beytenu, Ze’ev said that Shas does not have any special demands on such issues and simply wished to preserve the status quo, as it had done in previous governing coalitions with the Right.

Addressing the issue of haredi enlistment in national service – likely one of the first issues a new government will tackle – Ze’ev claimed that many of the declarations made by politicians on the issue in the last Knesset session were “mere populism” and that the only way to solve the issue would be through “moderation and compromise.”

“It’s more comfortable for them to ignore reality during election season and make populist declarations,” he said.

“But coercively drafting yeshiva students into the army would lead to civil war and simply won’t happen.

“We can increase the numbers of haredim going to the army, into the reserves and civilian service,” he said. “It’s achievable but it has to be done responsibly and with careful deliberation.”

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