Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Hints at Compromise on ultra-Orthodox IDF Draft

Shas spiritual leader in letter to President Shimon Peres: 'Not every Haredi is entitled to exemption from military service'; Bennett tells president during their consultations that he recommends tapping Netanyahu to form next coalition.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has urged President Shimon Peres to find a solution to the law requiring yeshiva students to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, warning it would cause a rift in the nation.

One of Shas' leaders, Aryeh Deri, gave Peres the letter on Thursday during preliminary coalition consultations. In an unusual step, Deri sat at one side of the table during the talks, while his fellow Shas leaders, ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias sat on the other side.

"The rabbi has sent you a letter. In this letter he expresses his concern about a rift in the nation, God forbid, and his hope that you, the president, are the only one who can find a solution and a common denominator," Deri told the president. "It's not a coalition issue. It really is a subject that is liable to cause a rift in the nation. We declared throughout the election campaign that we will recommend Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, and we are keeping our promise. Although we have fears, we have no official information. We hope for the formation of as broad a government as possible.”

Eli Yishai added his own concern: “One of the subjects that most concerns me is the attempt by certain people, who are focusing on an attempt to destroy the world of Torah, to bring about a rift in the nation. We believe that it is thanks to the Torah that we are here in the Land of Israel. Any attempt to close the world of Torah and to undermine the faith of the Jewish people will lead to a rift in the nation. I'm very worried. I feel that there's a very dangerous process going on. The point is that nobody will succeed in harming Torah scholars."

Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett held his own talks with the president an hour earlier, recommending that Peres choose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next coalition.

"The last time our party had 12 seats I was 5-years-old," said Bennett. "You have decades of activity for the sake of Israel behind you. I learned from you to see opportunity in the face of difficulty."

"In the past year, we had the privilege of traveling all over the country. I've had over 500 encounters with the public," he added. "I've learned that there is a new generation that does not want a discourse of hatred toward the religious, the secular and the Arabs, nor toward any group."

"Most of the Jewish people agree on most things. Instead of engaging in disputes, there are enough issues to tackle. To restore values, to promote the periphery. The people want to connect the Haredi community to Israeli society with wisdom and love, out of an understanding that they are our brothers. New MKs have the disadvantage of a lack of experience, but they also have the advantage of a lack of experience and a belief that things can be changed."

"We are committed only to the Jewish people," he declared. We recommend Benjamin Netanyahu. We said so throughout the election campaign and we are committed to that."

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