UTJ rejects Kandel plan on haredi enlistment

United Torah Judaism tells Likud negotiating team it opposes any change to status of yeshiva students.

United Torah Judaism at the President's residence 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
United Torah Judaism at the President's residence 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The senior leadership of the United Torah Judaism party made clear to the Likud negotiating team on Thursday that it completely opposes any change to the status of haredi yeshiva students and their ability to remain in full-time study.
MKs Moshe Gafni, Ya’acov Litzman and Meir Porush met late on Thursday night with the Likud coalition negotiation team to study the details of the Kandel Plan for increasing haredi enlistment.
During the meeting, Deputy Health Minister Litzman reportedly took out a NIS 200 bill, which bears the image of the third president Zalman Shazar and a quote from him.
Litzman read aloud the quote which discusses the importance of educating children and ends with “... rich and poor, childless and those with many children, single and not single, everyone together needs to bear the yoke of Torah study.”
This, Litzman said, was his plan for equality in the share of the national burden.
The Ashkenazi haredi party remains opposed to any new legislation on the issue that does not preserve the right of haredi males to study full time in yeshiva and thereby receive an exemption from military service.
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 to 65 percent enlistment of haredi men between the ages of 18 and 24 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 draftreform campaigners, but provides incentives and financial sanctions to boost enlistment.
A source in United Torah Judaism told The Jerusalem Post last week that the party would not support any change to the status quo, but noted that the haredi spiritual and political leadership would likely limit its opposition to reforms if they do not impinge on the ability of haredi men to choose to study in yeshiva without being drafted.
In the Friday edition of the influential Yated Ne’eman haredi daily, the Council of Torah Sages of the hassidic Agudat Yisrael movement issued a declaration denouncing any reform which would “injure the holy yeshivas and remove Torah from its students,” through the enlistment of haredi men who until now have studied in lieu of military service, “to obligate them to a yoke other than that of the Torah.”
The pronouncement called on yeshiva students not to enlist in any form of military service and said that no change in their status would be acceptable.
“Even if they want to take you to jail, and if they want to remove your rights and decree upon you poverty and need, do not fear and God will be with you to sanctify his name with love,” the declaration ended.
Last week, the leading rabbis of the non-hassidic world, Aharon Leib Shteinman and Shmuel Auerbach, also both declared that there was no room for compromise on the issue of haredi enlistment.