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UTJ MKs brief Shteinman on Kandel draft plan
By JEREMY SHARON
26/02/2013
Party members meet spiritual leader of haredi world to discuss increasing enlistment among community.
 
The three MKs of Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic component of the United Torah Judaism party, met with spiritual leader of the haredi world Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman at the end of last week to discuss with him the details of the Kandel Plan for increasing haredi enlistment.

The UTJ politicians went to Shteinman’s residence in Bnei Brak Friday morning to update him on developments, following a secretive meeting between UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush and Ya’acov Litzman with the Likud Beytenu coalition negotiating team on Thursday night in which they themselves were briefed on the contents of the proposal.

The Kandel Plan – drafted by the chairman of the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office, Prof. Eugene Kandel – would set an annual target of 60-65 percent enlistment of haredi men between the ages of 18 and 24, and would go into effect five years from now.

The proposal does not include quotas for the number of yeshiva students able to gain exemptions from national service, as demanded by Yesh Atid and draft reform campaigners, but provides incentives and financial sanctions to boost enlistment.

Shteinman’s acquiescence to any change in the status of yeshiva students is required before UTJ can agree to join a new coalition.

Although the rabbi issued a stern declaration last week stating that the haredi world would not compromise on the issue, it is possible that a moderate proposal aimed at increasing the numbers of haredim serving in national service programs would not engender severe enough opposition from the haredi spiritual leadership to stymie the plan.

Such an outcome would also pave the way for UTJ to enter the coalition.

According to the haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat, Shteinman told the three MKs that his position was unchanged and that haredi men wishing to study full-time in yeshiva should not be prevented from doing so.

However, sources in the party are concerned that Netanyahu will abandon UTJ on the issue if he is forced to choose between the haredi party and Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi, which are both advocating more serious reform to substantially boost haredi national service enlistment.

Separately, senior nationalreligious rabbi Yisrael Rozen lashed out at the Bayit Yehudi leadership, saying that the political side of the haredi enlistment issue was not relevant to the party and that it should not interfere in it.

“This issue is not our concern in terms of the political and coalition aspects of it, and we are interfering in a fight that is not ours,” Rozen wrote in his weekly column in the Shabbat B’Shabbato pamphlet, saying that the party should remain neutral in the dispute.

“Lapid should come to an arrangement with the haredim and we will say ‘Amen,’” Rozen continued.

The national-religious rabbi said that he fully supports combining a Torah lifestyle with national service and employment but that this position cannot be forced on others. Imposing quotas for the number of yeshiva students permitted to remain in full-time study, Rozen continued, was unworkable since it would not be reasonable for yeshiva heads to send one student out of the study hall in place of another, who would be allowed to stay.

Several senior national-religious rabbis have met with haredi spiritual and political leaders since the election.

Some of the more conservative figures in the community are less inclined than the Bayit Yehudi political leadership to significantly alter the status of full-time yeshiva students.
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