Ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews (Reuters)
Israeli right-wing party Bayit Yehudi's leader Naftali Bennett has pledged to support the right of ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews not to be called up for mandatory national service.
Bennett told Haredi station Radio Kol Hai that Jewish students studying the Torah should be permitted to continue their studies and be exempt from serving in the military.
"We will fight for Torah study in Israel and we will fight against laws that coerce service," Bennett said. "Whoever is learning Torah should continue to learn Torah, full stop.
"This is my stance from the beginning. Although it's not always easy to explain this to our secular brothers, my way is to explain that the Jewish people have existed for thousands of years in exile because of Torah and in the state of Israel we need to strengthen this."
The Haredi are a small but active fringe ultra-orthodox group that opposes the state of Israel.
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Earlier last year, the supreme court declared the Tal Law, which exempts ultra-orthodox students from call-up to the Israel Defence Force, unconstitutional.
Bennett said that there was "nothing harder" than getting up early in the morning to learn the Torah.
His position has been criticised by Idan Miller, a candidate on the Tzipi Livni party.
"Bennett has removed the liberal mask from his face and anyone who bears the burden of service in this country has to know that these are Bennett's positions, and should therefore discount Bayit Yehudi as an option in the elections," Miller said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
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