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      Hareidi Leaders Latest to Pursue Bennett

      Hareidi MKs meet with Bennett in an attempt to win the Jewish Home to their cause. Likud, Lapid reportedly fighting for party’s support.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 2/15/2013, 11:00 AM

      Naftali Bennett
      Naftali Bennett
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      Leaders of the hareidi-religious Yahadut Hatorah party met Thursday evening with Naftali Bennett, the new head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, in an attempt to convince him to join the coalition without excluding hareidi parties.

      Bennett has reportedly made a pact with Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid to enter the coalition together or not at all, a move which could leave hareidi parties in the opposition due to Lapid’s opposition to their platforms.

      The MKs who spoke to Bennett told him they disagree with the harsh criticism of the Jewish Home party voiced by Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

      However, the hareidi MKs and Bennett were unable to come to an agreement on the main topic of the evening: the subject of hareidi-religious army service. Bennett has declared that young hareidi men must begin serving in the military, while Yahadut Hatorah insists that young men be allowed to choose full-time Torah study in place of military duty.

      Like the hareidi parties, Likud is reportedly hoping to break Bayit Yehudi’s link to Yesh Atid. A senior source in Likud told Arutz Sheva that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has an unofficial negotiating team tasked with breaking the bond between the two factions.

      According to another report, Netanyahu prefers to bring hareidi parties into the coalition rather than to rely on Lapid, because - unlike Lapid - the hareidi faction leaders are not seeking to become the prime minister.

      Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi sources have denied reports that Bennett faces pressure from within his own party to end the pact with Lapid and join Netanyahu. Voice of Israel radio (Kol Yisrael) had reported that senior Bayit Yehudi politicians feared the Bennett-Lapid agreement would hurt the party.