Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman at the Knesset plenum discussing goverment allowances for the disabled, September 18, 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Haredi leader and United Torah Judaism chairman Ya’acov Litzman has not often publicly praised and lauded the value of academic degrees or IDF service, mostly since he prefers that his electorate study in yeshivot instead.
But Litzman appears to have now recognized the importance of such endeavors and has introduced a bill in the Knesset that would require anyone serving as prime minister to have an academic degree and to have served in the army.
That Litzman’s nemesis, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, does not have an academic degree would appear to be his motivation in advancing this bill.
Lapid reportedly never completed his bachelor’s degree, and although he did serve in the IDF, it was as a reporter for the army’s weekly newspaper, Bamahane.
He has been rising in the polls of late, with a poll conducted last week for Channel 10 News giving Yesh Atid 27 Knesset seats, which would see it overtake the Likud and make it the biggest party in the Knesset.
Cognizant of this, Litzman submitted his bill to the Knesset on Tuesday.
“The prime minister has to take fateful decisions on different issues of great responsibility and significant consequence,” he wrote in the explanatory paragraphs of his bill. “It should be required that the person entrusted with such decisions should have broad understanding and orientation in the organizational structure of the IDF.
“Likewise, in the State of Israel, many reforms are taking place that have economic relevance and broad impact, and therefore it is fitting that whoever is the head of the hierarchy should have an understanding of these issues and should therefore have completed an academic degree that would grant him professional skills.”
Litzman developed a loathing for Lapid ever since the latter, during the course of the last government, insisted on the passage of an IDF conscription law that targeted Haredim, cut yeshiva funding in half, passed legislation to guarantee Haredi schools teach core curriculum subjects (English, math and science) and pushed other measures to increase Haredi participation in military service and the workforce.
Litzman and UTJ fought against all of these initiatives and systematically repealed them in the current government.
He has said he would not sit with Lapid in any future government, and he refuses to talk to the Yesh Atid leader or exchange greetings when he meets him in the Knesset corridors.
In response, Lapid described the legislation as “cynical” on the Kan Bet radio station, saying it was being advanced by “the man who with his own hands prevents his public from getting an education.”