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Opposition Leader Says Hareidi Enlistment Being Mishandled

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog criticizes aggressive implementation of hareidi draft law, says more dialogue necessary.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 3/2/2014, 10:28 PM

Labor Party head and leader of the Israeli opposition MK Yitzhak Herzog spoke to Arutz Sheva Sunday, and shared his thoughts on the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority, as well as his concerns over legislation aiming to draft hareidim into the military. 

Herzog spoke to Arutz Sheva at AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington D.C., shortly after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

He said that he had thanked the top US diplomats, and particularly Kerry, for the Obama administration's initiative in pushing talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and urged them to "ignore all the noises... the criticism" which has been leveled against the US-brokered talks.

Herzog, who is an outspoken proponent of Israeli territorial concessions as part of a deal with the PA, said leaders on both sides needed to "seize the moment", and said that Netanyahu in particular was facing an "historic opportunity to make peace with our neighbors".

On the domestic front, the opposition leader voiced some criticism over the government's efforts to draft hareidi men into the IDF.

Despite supporting the enlistment of hareidim into the army, Herzog lamented what he saw as an overly combative approach by elements within the government - possibly a reference to the Yesh Atid party, which has led efforts to impose criminal sanctions on draft dodgers - which he said had in fact led to a "futile result". 

"I am very sad... very sorry for the fact that communities clash with communities in the Land of Israel, because that should not be the case," he said. "There should be further dialogue and further talks between the parties, and not one shoving the other and making a [political] point."

His comments came as hundreds of thousands of hareidim rallied in Jerusalem against government proposals to end the sweeping exemption from national service granted to hareidi yeshiva students.