Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett has staked out his party's position on drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the Israel Defense Forces, writing on his Facebook page that their unwillingness to serve in any capacity is not ethical and places a burden on Israeli society.
“The current situation in which thousands of haredim do not study, serve or work cannot continue,” the Bayit Yehudi chairman wrote this week. “It’s not ethical and it’s not sustainable and the Israeli economy cannot withstand it.” He insisted, however, that “haredim are our brothers” and that he merely wants to see their integration into Israeli society.
Bennett said that the phenomenon did not exist anywhere else in the world, writing: “In New York, haredim study and also work.”
He denied that he was feeling any “external pressure” on him and the party, referring to reports that senior national-religious rabbis from the sector’s more conservative wing would oppose any agreement by Bayit Yehudi that would lead to the drafting of haredi yeshiva students.
“I’m not feeling any pressure from these sources, but instead I feel obligated to you, the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who voted for us to enact the principles we presented [in the election campaign],” he noted, indirectly rebuffing any notion that the party might adhere to the will of national-religious rabbis rather than of its voters.
Some of the most senior rabbis in the national- religious community, including rabbis Haim Druckman, Yaakov Ariel and Elyakim Levanon, have met with haredi and hassidic leaders in recent days.
Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai will meet later this week with Rabbi Dov Lior, rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron and one of the leading figures of the conservative wing of the national-religious sector.
On Tuesday, however, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, dean of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva and a leading figure on the liberal spectrum of the national religious community, said that members of Knesset should listen to no one but the people who elected them.
“Members of the Knesset are emissaries of the public,” Cherlow wrote on his yeshiva website.
“They receive their power from the public, they are not independent and not permitted to decide whatever they want or obey whomever they think they should obey.
“They must do only one thing – fulfill the mission assigned to them by the public,” he continued. “This is the ethical position, this is the approach of Jewish law regarding the laws of an emissary and the agent which designates him as such and these are also the principles of democracy.”