Several members of the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu slate are calling on the list’s leadership to sideline Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties after the upcoming general elections on January 22, when the time comes to form a new coalition. On Wednesday, the Hebrew daily Maariv reported that Yisrael Beytenu Knesset member Faina Kirshenbaum was the latest to join this trend, slamming the ultra-Orthodox parties for being “extortionate.”
During a panel session at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Kirshenbaum, who is the secretary general of Yisrael Beytenu, called for the right and the center-left to form a coalition without the ultra-Orthodox parties.
“If we form blocs — a left-wing bloc and a right-wing bloc — then perhaps we will not be dependent on the small parties and the Haredi factions” to change the system of government in Israel, she said. “We won’t need to deal with extortion from those parties. Then we will really bring a change that will be of benefit to the State of Israel.”
Kirshenbaum’s suggestion echoed similar calls from Likud parliamentarians.
On Tuesday, MK Ze’ev Elkin, who serves as the current coalition chairman, said that he could foresee a future coalition without the ultra-Orthodox parties.
“Working on the assumption that Netanyahu will win the election, and since the Haredi parties say from the get-go that they aren’t beholden to anyone, it goes both ways,” Elkin said at a talk Jerusalem high school students. “The Likud owes nothing to the Haredi parties.”
Elkin claimed that the Haredi parties would join forces with any coalition that promised to prevent a widespread draft of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, who currently for the most part avoid army service.
Last week, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely called for a more universal draft law, and said that the only way to achieve such legislation was to not give power to the Shas party — the largest of the Haredi factions in Israeli politics.
The question of inducting ultra-Orthodox men into the army is a long-standing and sensitive issue that in the past year has come to the forefront of Israeli political debate. The recent short-lived coalition between Likud and Kadima fell apart over the question of drafting Haredim.
Although some ultra-Orthodox men do join the army, the vast majority gain exemptions on condition that they attend religious seminaries where they engage in Torah study.