Israeli’s hareidi parties are preparing for the option that they will be forced to sit in the opposition in the next government, Channel 10 News reported on Monday.
The report quoted officials in both Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) as having said that they will likely have to join the opposition, because of the surprising rise of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Lapid has indicated he will work to draft hareidi yeshiva students into the army, something which both Shas and UTJ oppose.
Shas’s Aryeh Deri was quoted in the report as having told his associates that “the party will sit with Shelly Yechimovich in the opposition,” referring to the Labor party leader who has ruled out joining a coalition led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“It looks as though Yair wants a government without hareidim,” Deri said, adding, “We will care about those who are less fortunate from the opposition.”
Also quoted by Channel 10 was Meir Porush of UTJ, who said, “I would not suggest to any Prime Minister that he confront hundreds of thousands of hareidim” over the draft issue.
On Sunday, Deri said at a meeting of the Shas faction that he was “worried” about the potential “division, divisiveness, and hatred in the nation” that could emerge from the coalition negotiation process.
Deri said that under no circumstances would the hareidi community agree to a forced draft. “A true participation in the draft will only take place based on a willing agreement and pact between Israeli society and the hareidi community,” he said.
MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler of UTJ was more optimistic that the issue could be resolved on Monday, saying that “if the people gave Lapid a mandate to push through a hareidi draft requirement, it also gave a mandate to the religious.”
Speaking at a faction meeting of UTJ Monday, Eichler said that religious individuals, along with religious parties, were well represented in the Knesset. Altogether, some 40 MKs live a religious lifestyle, and there are 18 MKs in hareidi parties in the Knesset – 7 for UTJ, and 11 for Shas. Those numbers, said Eichler, justified discussing a mandate for ensuring that hareidi yeshiva students are able to continue their studies uninterrupted, equal to the mandate for Lapid's views.
He said that he believed the issue would be worked out, and that UTJ would become a member of the government. “There's enough room for everyone in the government,” he said.