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      Likud and United Torah Judaism Meet

      The coalition negotiation teams of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism meet to discuss UTJ joining the government.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 2/22/2013, 1:16 AM

      United Torah Judaism members
      United Torah Judaism members
      Hezki Ezra

      The coalition negotiation teams of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties met on Thursday evening in Jerusalem to discuss UTJ's joining the government, after two weeks in which the sides had not met.

      United Torah Judaism officials told Arutz Sheva before the meeting began that significant differences still exist between the parties and that the meeting will likely focus on mutual updates.

      The one unresolved issue that is keeping United Torah Judaism away from the coalition for now is the issue of army enlistment of hareidi yeshiva students.

      UTJ is opposed to drafting of yeshiva students and, according to unconfirmed reports, has agreed to give a green light for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make territorial concessions in exchange for "preserving the yeshiva world" and maintaining the status quo regarding enlistment of hareidim.

      Until now, the party has been seen as part of the right wing bloc, which is opposed to territorial concessions.

      According to a report on Army Radio, Thursday’s meeting between UTJ and the Likud was attended by Professor Eugene Kandel from the National Economics Council.

      Kandel has proposed an outline for enlisting hareidim into the army, which is essentially an upgrade of the outline proposed in the past by Minister Moshe Yaalon. It focuses on recruitment goals and not quotas and would extend army recruitment to the age of 26.

      Shas has reportedly agreed to this outline, but the outline was rejected by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

      Lapid, who insists on implementing a program that would see all yeshiva students being drafted into the army, has imposed almost impossible preconditions on entering the government. Lapid is reportedly steadfast in his position against joining a coalition that includes Shas and United Torah Judaism.

      It is believed that Thursday’s meeting with UTJ was arranged after Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told media outlets on Thursday that there have been no contacts between the Likud and his party for days, and that "other than a glass of water, we have not been offered anything."

      Meanwhile, negotiating teams from Likud-Yisrael Beytenu and the Bayit Yehudi parties will meet Friday to resume negotiations toward the formation of a coalition.

      The meeting is the first official negotiating session between the two parties since last week, although there have been unofficial contacts, including a reported one-on-one meeting between party heads Binyamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett on Wednesday.