MK Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of betraying the haredi community by supporting the imposition of criminal sanctions on yeshiva students in government legislation to draft haredi men into military service.
“Netanyahu betrayed us. He used us and when he no longer needed us he chucked us away,” Porush told the Knesset Channel on Tuesday.
“We will remind him that he is throwing our children in jail.
We will remember this and we won’t forget it.
“This stain, this statement that yeshiva students who are learning Torah will not be able to do so in three-and-a-half years, this stain begins today, harms us today and makes us fourth or fifth class citizens in the land of our fathers,” the MK said.
Porush’s comments come a day after the three rabbinic councils of the mainstream haredi movements Degel Hatorah, Agudat Yisrael and Shas held a historic joint meeting in Bnei Brak to denounce the stipulation of criminal sanctions.
The councils, which had never before convened together, jointly decided to hold a mass protest against the legislation, most likely to be staged on March 9.
Until now, protests against enlistment have been organized only by hard-line elements in the haredi community, the largest of which was a rally of some 30,000 men last May – which had turned violent.
The endorsement by the mainstream leadership of a mass rally will likely bring several hundred thousand haredi demonstrators onto the streets in a show of strength and opposition to the government legislation.
Much of the haredi anger at the government bill has been directed at Netanyahu, for failing to intervene.
Benny Rabinowitz, spokesman for the Degel Hatorah Council of Torah Sages said Netanyahu has to decide if he wants to be remembered for “criminalizing Torah study.”
“All political leaders know that they will always be remembered in particular for one specific event. Ariel Sharon is known principally for expelling people from Gaza, despite his other achievements. Does Netanyahu want to be remembered for turning Torah study into a criminal act? Because if this law passes that is what will happen,” said Rabinowitz.
Rabinowitz also said that the father of Netanyahu’s wife Sarah, studied in the Novardok Yeshiva in what was then the Russian empire and said that her husband would be “turning her father’s study into something criminal.”
Also on Tuesday, the Shaked Committee reviewing the government legislation met to discuss who will be considered haredi for the terms of the bill.
The legislation establishes annual targets for enlistment from the haredi sector but concerns were raised that the definition was too broad and would allow soldiers from the national religious sector to be included in the count.
Although no decision was yet taken, it appears that anyone who spent two years in a haredi educational institution between the ages of 14 and 18 will be considered for the purposes of the bill and the annual enlistment targets.