Daily Israel Report

Bennett: 'I Feel No Pressure' from Rabbis

Bayit Yehudi head: we are obligated to add hareidim to work force and army. Rabbi Melamed weighs in.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/5/2013, 2:16 PM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Hezki Ezra

Bayit Yehudi Chairman, MK-elect Naftali Bennett, brushed off reports Tuesday that he was under pressure from Zionist rabbis to distance himself from Yesh Atid and its leader, Yair Lapid.

Earlier Tuesday, Maariv quoted sources in Likud who said that "already, there is heavy pressure on Bayit Yehudi from the rabbis of the religious Zionist movement, not to be in a common front with Lapid."

Such a common front places pressure on Binyamin Netanyahu to accept a plan for enlistment of hareidim into military or national service, that could leave hareidi parties out of the coalition. Zionist and hareidi rabbis are concerned that it could go too far and create a schism in the nation.

Bennett wrote on his Facebook page that while the hareidim are "our brothers" and he loves them, "the present situation, in which tens of thousands of hareidim are not studying [Torah] and are not working and serving, cannot continue."

"In New York, hareidim study but also work," he noted.

"I read in the papers this morning that there is heavy pressure on us from all sorts of elements that are intervening from outside," Bennett wrote. "I do not feel the pressure of these elements, because I feel obligated to you, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, who elected us so that we would act in accordance with the principles we presented."

Numerous hareidi leaders have been contacting Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El in recent days, and asking for his assistance in preventing what they see as "harsh decrees" against the yeshiva world. Rabbi Melamed is seen as having considerable influence over some of Bayit Yehudi's MKs, and a large part of its voter base.

The leaders include MK Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism, and Minister Eli Yishai of Shas, who met with Rabbi Melamed in his home. There has also been a meeting of Zionist rabbis with the Belzer Rebbe, in the latter's home.

At this point, Rabbi Melamed thinks that the Bayit Yehudi should be allowed to manage its own political business during the coalition talks, without outside intervention.

"The party is composed of wise and intelligent people, and I trust their judgment" the rabbi said. "There are high yeshivas in the religious Zionist public as well and many Torah students, and obviously, the Bayit Yehudi will protect them and the entire Torah world."

Rabbi Zalman Melamed founded Arutz Sheva, which is managed by his wife, Rabbanit Shulamit Melamed.