MK Ya’akov Litzman of the haredi United Torah Judaism party declared on Thursday that his party would not rule out joining a coalition led by Labor chairman Yitzhak Herzog, but unequivocally ruled out the party sitting in a coalition with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
Speaking to Haaretz, Litzman stressed that any final decision would be made by United Torah Judaism’s Council of Torah Sages but noted that he was a part of a Labor-led government in the past.
"I sat in a coalition with Meretz, Yossi Sarid was Minister of Education and an excellent one at that. It was in 1999 with [Ehud] Barak," he said.
As for Lapid’s party, Litzman declared, "I will not sit with Lapid. Plain and simple." He dismissed Lapid’s softened positions on the issue of criminal sanctions against haredi draft dodgers, saying, “Lapid is signaling that he wants to sit in the coalition, not with me, but in the coalition. If he claims now that it was not him who demanded the criminal sanctions two years ago but the Attorney General, why he did not say it back then?”
“Take out his quotes from the past two years - how many times did he say he’s demanding [criminal sanctions]? Please, Mr. Lapid, tell the truth,” he continued.
Litzman added that Lapid can repent, but that will not change his mind about being a part of the same coalition as Lapid. "If he wants to repent then let him repent. Let him be in the opposition for one term, praise the yeshiva students who study, support them in budgets and child allowances, and then in the next term we may sit with him,” he said.
“As far as I know the position of the Council of Torah Sages is the same - that we will absolutely not sit in a government with Lapid. Everything he is saying now is because he is afraid of a situation where he will be left out of a coalition," added Litzman.
The controversial draft law was passed by the Knesset last year, despite warnings by pro-enlistment leaders that strong sanctions against haredi draft evaders could create a backlash that would mean fewer haredi men in the army, not more.
The draft law was passed mostly at the urging of Lapid, who won an unexpected 19 seats in the last elections and conditioned his entering a coalition on changes to the draft law. He even threatened to bolt the coalition unless the law passes.
Lapid recently said that his party will not be part of a government that will make changes to the draft law. He was speaking amid reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had told haredi reporters that he would invite the haredi parties into his next coalition and work to remove the part of the draft law that imposes criminals sanctions on haredim who evade army service.