Wary about being pushed out of the coalition, haredi
parties are taking steps ahead of negotiations. Shas
and the United Torah Judaism
party are engaged in talks in an effort to create an 18-seat haredi bloc.
Their aim is to try to minimize the expected impact Yair Lapid's
universal draft plan will have on yeshiva students.
A decision is expected on Sunday.
"We'll offer Shas to form a join team that will include representatives from both sides," United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni
told Ynet on Friday.
"The people may have spoken by giving Yair Lapid 19 Knessset seats but the same people also gave the haredi parties 18 mandates. We'll probably join forces on the basic issues. We have similar principles in that respect."
Shas party leader Aryeh Deri
made similar comments. He noted that the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,
has instructed him to "go into the negotiations together."
"He urged us, 'tell Netanyahu
that on the issue of yeshiva students we're 18 mandates, not 11'," Deri remarked.
The Shas leader said that the two parties will be coordinated on the issue of haredi enlistment as well as the funding of yeshivot.
However, one party official illustrated the differences between Shas and the United Torah Judaism. "Generally, we see eye to eye. We too are unwilling to see those who actually study being targeted. Nevertheless, we support the enlistment of those who use yeshivot as an excuse," the official said.
"We're already communicated in the past that enlistment of haredim on a larger scale is possible, if it was truly desired.
"Keep in mind that the majority of our voters do serve (the country) in one way or another and that we're concerned about other, no less important, issues as well, such as caring for the needy and preventing discrimination."
In a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gafni said, "It won't be easy. There isn't any ruling party that can do whatever it wants now. Both the United Torah Judaism and Shas are stable parties and Netanyahu knows it."
He nevertheless did not rule out sitting alongside Yesh Atid
in the coalition. "We have our red lines and if they accept them we'll sit together. Why not?"
Asked how far the party will be willing to go in terms of haredi draft, he said": "Basically, we don't want any one whose Torah is his profession to be enlisted. We'll discuss the matter with Netanyahu. Equal share of the burden also includes studying the Torah. If the seculars study, then the haredim will enlist."
Akiva Novick is Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent