Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai is convinced that Shas is going to find itself in the opposition – and in a conversation with Arutz Sheva Monday, he appealed to Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett to prevent “irreparable damage to the world of Torah.”
Yishai said that Shas MKs had over the past few days spoken extensively to rabbinical leaders in the National Religious camp. The meetings are actually nothing new, Yishai said, as Shas had taken care to remain in touch with National Religious rabbis for years. But now, with the impending entry of Yair Lapid into the government, Yishai said that the time had come for all religious camps to put up a united front to prevent the imposition of a wide-ranging draft plan on Hareidi Yeshiva students.
According to plans promoted by Lapid, only 400 of the top scholars in Hareidi yeshivas would receive exemptions from military service. Everyone else would have to serve in the army, or at least national service. Lapid has repeatedly said that he does not intend to compromise on this position, and that the price for his Yesh Atid's joining of a government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu would be the latter's acceptance of this point. Yishai said that he did not see Lapid compromising, and as a result Shas would likely be in the opposition.
Yishai said that in his discussions with the rabbis, he had pointed out the importance of full-time Torah study, considered essential for the survival of the Jewish people by leaders of generations past. Yishai said that he was prepared to expand the draft for Hareidi youth, but that it could not be done by governmental edict, which is what Lapid is seeking. Jewish Home is also seeking an expansion of the draft, but not as radically as Lapid – and it is this that he hopes Bennett will stress in the coalition negotiations.
Yishai added that the election rhetoric against Jewish Home by Shas was just that – rhetoric. “We have never looked down on Religious Zionists as people who do not believe in Torah. National Religious and Hareidi Jews have one Torah, and even if we have differences between ourselves we know how to bridge the gaps,” Yishai said.
“We do not suggest that Jewish Home not enter the government. We have sat in governments without the National Religious Party in the past, so it is fair for Jewish Home to do so without us now,” Yishai said. But a demand for the draft of nearly all Hareidi Yeshiva students will be very damaging to the world of Torah, as serious as damage done in the past to the Land of Israel and the Jewish people."
Earlier, a senior source in Jewish Home slammed Shas for its negative campaign against the party during the elections. "Shas thinks our memory is short," the source said. "So short, that they will cry 'a rift within the nation,' and we will forget what has been going on here all of these years, and was happening only two weeks ago. Suddenly they remember that the Bayit Yehudi are 'Jews like them' when all along the elections they called Bayit Yehudi 'goyim' (gentiles)," the source said.