Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai, who has already expressed harsh criticism of attempts to find an alternative to the Tal Law, has now characterized efforts to draft the Ultra-Orthodox as "bloodshed, incest, and idolatry" – three acts expressly forbidden by Judaism.
Yishai met Sunday with chairman of the Plesner Committee, MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) about the haredi Knesset factions' opposition to the committee's activity. The haredi factions have already refused to cooperate, but now that reports indicate that the committee has put together its initial recommendations, the Ultra-Orthodox parties are making it clear that a line has been crossed.
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Yishai's spokesman said in response that "no situation that doesn't allow yeshiva students to study would be allowed, and at any rate Shas has not submitted an official opinion on the issue."
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Last week, a new model presented by the Treasury demonstrated the system designed to replace the Tal Law and lead to a general draft for the Ultra-Orthodox. According to the proposal, a draftee who is not a candidate for an exemption and nevertheless chooses not to serve will face a series of sanctions that will affect the institutions with which he is affiliated.
The draft proposal includes methods of exerting community pressure, such as benefits for yeshivas and kollels that encourage their students to serve in the military and canceling budgets for institutions whose students do not. In addition, the model calls for an immediate proportional reduction to the budget of any Torah institution that doesn't meet its draft quotas.
Early Monday, 25 organizations that oppose the Tal Law announced that they would be renewing their public campaign for equal service. At a Tel Aviv press conference ahead of the release of the committee's conclusions, the groups presented their guiding principles and demanded that the number of yeshiva students defined as "illuim" (geniuses) – and therefore exempt from service – not exceed 1,000 per year.
"The haredim boycotted the committee and held a solidarity rally," said Itay Ben Horin of the Israeli Forum for Equal Service.
"If there isn't a change, there will be a conflict between haredim and those who serve. On the political level, if they try to string us along, they'll find that this time the public won't take it. We'll oppose the committee and it will be one hot summer," Ben Horin promised.
Gilad Morag contributed to this report