'Universal service plan red line for joining gov't'

Yesh Atid candidate Shelah says party will demand haredim be drafted; Shas official tells 'Post': Lapid will compromise.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Efrat Sa'ar)
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Efrat Sa'ar)
Ofer Shelah, the sixthplaced candidate on Yesh Atid’s electoral list, insisted on Wednesday that the party’s proposals for drafting haredi men into national service constitute “a red line” for joining a coalition government.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Shelah said that it was of vital importance that a situation be reached in which all 18-year-old men are drafted into national service programs, and stressed that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wanted Yesh Atid to join a governing coalition, the party’s plan for universal national service would need to be implemented.
Conflicts between the demands of haredi parties and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid on the issue of haredi national service enlistment could stymie any attempt by the prime minister to form a broad coalition.
“It is 100 percent a red line for us, and we would seek to advance our plan for universal national service as the first piece of government- backed legislation in the next Knesset session,” Shelah said.
Shas officials, however, brushed aside such concerns and suggested that Lapid would be willing to compromise with them and come to an agreement in order to join a coalition with Likud Beytenu and Shas.
A Shas strategist close to party joint leader Arye Deri said that Yesh Atid’s pronouncements on the issue were “mere bluster” designed to play to the electorate and increase its share of the vote.
He also pointed out that during a debate in December, Lapid refused to rule out joining a government with Deri, despite describing him as “unethical,” a “convicted felon” and “not morally fit to sit in Israel’s government.”
“Lapid will need to be pragmatic,” the Shas official opined. “You can’t always get everything you want.”
Yesh Atid’s plan for universal service provides for a blanket five-year exemption for all haredi 18-year-old men from military service, enabling them to join the workforce, during which time the army and civilian service would prepare for the absorption of large numbers of haredi recruits into tracks designed for their lifestyle.
After the five-year period, all 18-year-old males would from then on be required to enlist, apart from 1,000 exceptional Torah scholars, and those who refuse to serve “would forfeit all government funding and benefits with the exception of basic social security.”
Deri and Shas have repeatedly stressed that any enrolled full-time yeshiva student who is not studying accordingly should enlist in some form of national service, although the meaning of “not studying” has not been clearly defined.
Last week, Deri’s party coleader Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that a yeshiva student “not studying for the full day should go to the army,” the closest any haredi official has come to defining which yeshiva students should be entitled to keep studying and which should enlist.
It is presumed, by both secular and haredi politicians, that out of the approximately 45,000 haredim enrolled in full-time yeshiva study in lieu of military service, a large number do not adequately fulfill their study requirements, although definite statistics are unavailable.