MK Elazar Stern
MK Elazar SternPhoto: Miriam Alster, Flash 90

MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) spoke with Arutz Sheva about the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the exemptions haredi yeshiva students receive to mandatory military service.

The court ruled that the exemptions discriminate against the sectors of Israeli society which do serve in the IDF.

"The Knesset and the Israeli government left the Supreme Court with no alternative but to invalidate the law, which not only violates the values ​​of the State of Israel, but the principle of fairness. And it discriminated between blood and blood."

He claimed that the previous law pushed by the Yesh Atid party in the previous Knesset was thoughtful, as he put it. "It was a law that recognized the value of Torah and the yeshiva world, and it allowed for a quota of Torah students [to be exempt from military service]."

If it is the Supreme Court which decides and controls the outcome, maybe the Knesset should be closed?

"I think that's a good question. However, the Supreme Court rules on only a small percentage of all petitions it receives."

A small percent? Just yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on the matter of kashrut. About two weeks ago it ruled on the issue of illegal infiltrators. And there have been numerous Supreme Court rulings on conversion, settlement in Judea and Samaria, an the tax on owning a third apartment.

"Don't give the Knesset so much credit for discussions of religion and state. These are discussions which are closed in coalition agreements at two in the morning. They erase conversions, erase kashrut, and erase enlistment, all with 'coalition discipline.'

"If there were discussions in the Knesset [instead of backroom coalition deals], the results would have been more balanced. When you violate basic rights such as the law of equality, such as who will die and who will not die. The Knesset decisions on conversion damage the Jewishness of the State of Israel, and in the end rabbis sit in prison for corruption in kashrut and conversions. In this context, it is impossible to decide that some will go to military cemeteries while an entire community will not. It is good that there is a Supreme Court in the State of Israel, but it took ten years for it to reach this decision."

Are you not concerned that now a law circumventing the court's decision will be advanced?

"I do not think we will see the passage of [a bill circumventing the court], because there are enough MKs here who will not lend a hand to the cessation clause. I think that Kahlon may also be angry about the third apartment tax, but he will not lend a hand to the cessation clause. In the end, there will not be a state here if there is no Supreme Court."

Were you surprised by the silence of Ministers Bennett and Shaked?

"They do not surprise me. They invited ministers from the haredi camp. They are not afraid of [the majority] of Jewish Home voters, but of the minority which come to vote in the primaries. Minister Shaked was involved in the previous Knesset and also vetoed the inclusion of women in the electorate of the Chief Rabbinate and brought leading rabbis who think that the service of women in the IDF is forbidden from the Torah, so why should anyone be surprised?"

Do you think that religious Zionism should have taken a different approach to the issue of recruiting haredim?

"I have no doubt that an absolute majority of religious Zionists think that haredim should serve. Perhaps not all of them, perhaps thousands, but religious Zionism was built to nurture the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, a Judaism that brings people closer and doesn't push them away. There are other important matters besides Amona. This hurts me a lot."

MK Stern stressed that there must be dialogue with the haredi Knesset representatives until a consensus is reached on enlistment in the IDF. "An absolute majority of haredi MKs agree with me that the Yesh Atid recruitment law was good and that the haredi community should have praised it. But unfortunately the haredi leadership wants to keep the haredi community as a captive audience and therefore they refuse even on core matters."

"Along the way, we are alienating people in the State of Israel from Judaism, and are creating separation and hatred within our people. Maybe it will be good [electorally] for the Yesh Atid party, but it harms us," Stern said.