Yosef urges Peres to prevent rift over haredi enlistment

Shas spiritual leader urges president to prevent “a split in the Jewish people” and to act as mediator between factions over enlistment issue.

Peres and Yosef 311 (photo credit: Jossef Avi Yair Engel)
Peres and Yosef 311
(photo credit: Jossef Avi Yair Engel)
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef sent a letter to President Shimon Peres on Thursday calling on him to prevent “a split in the Jewish people” regarding haredi enlistment in national service and asking him to act as a mediator between the opposing political factions on the issue.
Universal national service is a crucial concern for Shas and United Torah Judaism in coalition negotiations for entering the government, and the two haredi parties are worried that legislation will be passed in the coming Knesset mandating service for yeshiva students.
“I turn to you with a worried and pained heart,” Yosef wrote to Peres.
“Throughout the generations, the Jewish people has risked its life to study the holy Torah.
“Please, use your influence in order to bring together the different sectors of our people and, at this time when there are people who are sowing fire and hatred and argument within the People, turn to them and guide them with logic and consensus and not through division and hatred, so that out nation will remain united, and hatred will not be increased among brothers,” the rabbi implored.
The Shas triumvirate leadership of Arye Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias personally delivered the letter to Peres during their consultations with the president regarding the party’s recommendations as to whom should be given the first opportunity to form a government.
Yishai said that the party had not changed its stated position from before the election and was recommending that Peres grant Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the first opportunity.
“This is not a governmental or coalition issue,” said Deri, “it is much deeper than that, it could unravel one of the things that holds us together as a society.”
Shas and UTJ are deeply worried about Yesh Atid’s demands for entry into the coalition, which include the implementation of the party’s plans to draft all 18- year-old males, including full-time yeshiva students, in five years time.
The election results produced a possibility that the prime minister could form a government without the haredi parties, and their decreased leverage has given rise to concern that legislation will be passed in the coming Knesset revoking the mass exemptions from military service which have been available to yeshiva students over the past 30 years.