Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef sent a letter to President Shimon Peres
on Thursday calling on him to prevent “a split in the Jewish people” regarding
haredi enlistment in national service and asking him to act as a mediator
between the opposing political factions on the issue.
service is a crucial concern for Shas and United Torah Judaism in coalition
negotiations for entering the government, and the two haredi parties are worried
that legislation will be passed in the coming Knesset mandating service for
“I turn to you with a worried and pained heart,” Yosef
wrote to Peres.
“Throughout the generations, the Jewish people has risked
its life to study the holy Torah.
“Please, use your influence in order to
bring together the different sectors of our people and, at this time when there
are people who are sowing fire and hatred and argument within the People, turn
to them and guide them with logic and consensus and not through division and
hatred, so that out nation will remain united, and hatred will not be increased
among brothers,” the rabbi implored.
The Shas triumvirate leadership of
Arye Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias personally delivered the letter to Peres
during their consultations with the president regarding the party’s
recommendations as to whom should be given the first opportunity to form a
Yishai said that the party had not changed its stated
position from before the election and was recommending that Peres grant Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the first opportunity.
“This is not a
governmental or coalition issue,” said Deri, “it is much deeper than that, it
could unravel one of the things that holds us together as a
Shas and UTJ are deeply worried about Yesh Atid’s demands for
entry into the coalition, which include the implementation of the party’s plans
to draft all 18- year-old males, including full-time yeshiva students, in five
The election results produced a possibility that the prime
minister could form a government without the haredi parties, and their decreased
leverage has given rise to concern that legislation will be passed in the coming
Knesset revoking the mass exemptions from military service which have been
available to yeshiva students over the past 30 years.