Litzman: If You Draft Hareidim, Draft Arabs Too
On the second official day of coalition negotiations, teams from Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu met with a delegation from United Torah Jewry. The delegation consisted of the party's leading MKs – Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman – as well as former UTJ MK Meir Porush.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Litzman said that he expected the negotiations about demands by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid that nearly all Hareidi Yeshiva students be drafted to be the major issue in the discussions. In response to reporters' questions, Litzman said that his party's stance was well known, and that he could not speculate on whether or not Lapid would compromise.
Litzman said that if the issue was “equal sharing of the defense burden,” then Hareidi Yeshiva students were not the only shirkers the new government must deal with. “We must add to this equal sharing of the burden by Arabs. Thus must apply to everyone.” Litzman said that coalition negotiations would continue, “but a basic principle of future meetings must be that any student that wishes to learn must be able to do so.”
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.
Speaking to reporters, Gafni said that “it would be very much worth the Prime Minister's while to ensure that Shas and United Torah Jewry are in the government.” UTJ, he said, was loyal, stable, and had student by Netanyahu in the past. However, he added that UTJ was not interested in compromising to make Lapid feel more comfortable with a government that would include Hareidi parties. “Nobody in UTJ would support the idea of limitations on the number of Yeshiva students.”