(photo credit: Yaacov Gross)
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
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.
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
Shteinman’s acquiescence to any change in the status of
yeshiva students is required before UTJ can agree to join a new
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
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.
come to an arrangement with the haredim and we will say ‘Amen,’” Rozen
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.
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.