Haredi MKs reacted angrily on Sunday to the decision of Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and the Likud to draw up legislation for drafting ultra-Orthodox
yeshiva students into the army based on the recommendations of MK Yohanan
Plesner and the Keshev Committee.
Netanyahu and Kadima chairman Shaul
Mofaz agreed on Sunday that Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud),
Plesner (Kadima) and Mofaz himself would head a special working group to draft
universal service legislation based on the Keshev Committee’s
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said in
response that if Netanyahu wants to abandon the partnership between Likud and
the haredi factions, then those factions will look for political partnership
UTJ lawmakers and party officials have hinted heavily over the
past few weeks that if the prime minister were to pass legislation dramatically
altering the status of full time yeshiva students, the party would not join a
Likud-led coalition after the next election.
A UTJ source told The
Jerusalem Post on Sunday night that the party would in all likelihood quit the
coalition if the Plesner recommendations were adopted.
“In that event,
the leading rabbis will most likely tell us to leave the coalition,” the
“We feel betrayed by Netanyahu; he didn’t inform us that
he was bringing the recommendations to the Likud faction for approval, and
established the Mofaz- Ya’alon-Plesner working group without coordination [with
us] as well.
“He’s proved you can’t believe a word he says,” the UTJ man
Official comment from the Shas Party, which has expressed greater
inclination to compromise on the terms of new legislation, was not forthcoming,
although party officials were pessimistic about the possibility of agreement on
A source within Shas told the Post that it seems the prime
minister had chosen Kadima over them because of the heightened expectations of
the Israeli public and politicians following Saturday night’s protest Tel Aviv
in favor of draft reform.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going in a good
direction. We tried to find a compromise which both the secular and haredi
public could live with, but now it seems the prime minister is going against
us,” the Shas official said on Sunday evening.
“It’s sad that instead of
adopting a compromise which could have led to thousands of haredim going into
the army, they will pass a law which won’t have any effect at all,” he
continued, adding that if Plesner’s recommendations were adopted in full, only
the extreme voices in the haredi community would be heard.
Both Shas and
UTJ object to the principle of fines against individuals refusing to perform
military or national service, as well as high targets for the enlistment of
yeshiva students, both of which the Plesner recommendations
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) said last
week that the less severe personal sanctions recommended by Plesner, involving
the withdrawal of certain welfare benefits for refusing to serve, might be
tolerable, although elements within UTJ expressed opposition to these
It is thought, however, that if Netanyahu can prevent Shas, with
its 11 MKs, from leaving the coalition he will be less concerned with any
actions UTJ, which has five lawmakers, might take.
The source said that
Shas was waiting to see what transpired from the discussions of the
Mofaz-Ya’alon-Plesner working group before speaking about possible political
“But this is beyond a political issue,” he added. “It’s a social
question, and it looks like we’re heading for a clash between haredi and secular
“Maybe there are moderates in the secular leadership speaking
up, but they can’t be heard now because of the extremists, and this will happen
with the haredim too.”
Spiritual leader and ultimate authority of the
Shas movement Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said on Saturday night, during his weekly Torah
lesson, that the three-four week summer break between yeshiva semesters should
be canceled because of the threat to Torah study the possible new arrangements
posed to the yeshiva world.
“We are right now in great trouble,” Yosef
said. “There are people who want to reduce the honor of the Torah, to reduce the
study of Torah and to reduce [the numbers of those who] toil in the Torah,” he
“We are surrounded by those who hate us, Iran,
Who will save us from their hands?” Yosef asked, because
“the youth of Israel exist only in the merit of the Torah.
Torah will save us... and therefore we will be in great trouble if, God forbid,
they will reduce the numbers of those toiling in Torah,” he said.
instructed that morning and afternoon prayers be concluded with a special prayer
said usually on fast days and during the 10 days of penitence of the Jewish
Sources close to Yosef have said recently that the Shas
spiritual leader understands that there will be significant changes, but is
nevertheless adamant that everything be done “to minimize the damage to the
Following Yosef’s call on Saturday night, the Shas Party
reported that at least two yeshivas had announced that they would cancel the
summer break for their students.