The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties issued a joint statement on Sunday, saying they would not discuss any change to the status of the tens of thousands of Haredi yeshiva students who do not serve in the army or perform national service.
The statement was meant to convey unity in light of the likely annulment of the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer service, after the High Court of Justice ruled last week that it is unconstitutional.
"We have no existence without Torah, we will give our lives for it," MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ ) said after a conference in Bnai Brak that was convened to discuss the issue. Ultra-Orthodox political figures said yesterday they believed that early elections were likely unless a solution was found to prevent full-time yeshiva students from being drafted.
In a further show of unity, the United Torah Judaism faction met Sunday at the home of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, head of the Degel Hatorah faction of the party, with Shas chairman Eli Yishai and other leading Sephardic, Hasidic and non-Hasidic rabbis.
Sources who attended the meeting told Haaretz that Shteinman ordered everyone present not to agree to any "compromise or quotas."
In the 1990s, Shteinman agreed for ultra-Orthodox representatives to serve on the committee that helped draft the Tal Law. However, he later withdrew his support after he was harshly criticized by extremists who opposed any cooperation on the matter.
But now it seems the ultra-Orthodox leadership sees the Tal Law as the lesser evil and want it to remain in force.
Some Sephardi ultra-Orthodox public figures criticized Yishai for attending the meeting at Shteinman's house, with one saying he was "kneeling before the Ashkenazi leadership, which has taken a militant line."
The Shas critics said the meeting should have taken place at the home of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, since Shas has twice as many Knesset members as UTJ.