UTJ to target disillusioned Shas voters in its election campaign
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party has decided to target disillusioned Shas voters in its election campaign. In its attempt to persuade voters to abandon the Sepharadi party, UTJ will present itself as the only party able to maintain the Jewish identity of Israel.
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party has decided to target disillusioned Shas voters in its election campaign. In its attempt to persuade voters to abandon the Sepharadi party, UTJ will present itself as the only party able to maintain the Jewish identity of Israel. Neither Likud nor the far-right parties can do so, the UTJ will argue, presenting what it sees as its impressive record on promoting issues close to the weakest sectors of society during the past two years.
Everyone on the UTJ campaign team agrees that the exact number of disgruntled Shas voters is a mystery, and most are too cautious to risk naming a figure. The less cautious, however, estimate that there could be as many as 20,000 or 30,000 potential deserters, most of them supporters of former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, who held rallies outside the jail where he was imprisoned three years ago and took part in the "Lion's Roar" yeshiva that was erected outside the prison.
The UTJ will be very careful in what it says to the public, because it does not want to openly confront Shas or its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The ethnic issue is also a thorny one for the party - each time its leaders want to prove it is not pure Ashkenazi, it wheels out Eliezer Mizrahi, a low-level party activist, who is hardly remembered within the party itself.
The party will therefore use kid gloves when approaching a very vague target, using loose wording when it calls on the ultra-Orthodox to join up to face the danger of a secular front, that will abolish what the ultra-Orthodox parties call "the important achievements of the last 54 years."
To more accurately plan its campaign, the UTJ commissioned a poll yesterday, in the hope of finding the last remaining ultra-Orthodox citizens who do not exercise their right to vote. According to UTJ figures, there are 150,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews with the right to vote in Israel. In the last elections, 128,000 voted, but the UJT wants to increase that figure to 95 percent or higher.
Shas voters comprise only one of the three sectors that may increase the party's seats to six, according to campaign sources.
The second sector is the poor, with whom the party, and especially The Knesset Finance Committee chairman Yakov Litzman, have been in contact. The third sector is made up of the new eligible voters in the ultra-Orthodox sectors.
The party's election slogan is "Fighting for you" - in huge lettering. The small print reads: `for large families, for fortifying the walls of Shabbat.' The UTJ will formulate its views on the peace process based partly on the results of a poll, but the campaign team is not likely to rely the results too much. "We consult the Torah sages in emergency issues anyway," they say.
The most significant part of the poll will examine whether the party's belief that the weaker sectors of society have, over the past two years, come to regard the UTJ as a viable alternative, is correct, and whether this will be evident at the polls.
At the press conference yesterday, emphasis was put on Litzman, who, during his tenure as Finance Committee chairman, held 280 meetings in 66 towns across the country, the majority of which are secular - Herzliya, Karmiel, Kfar Sava, Netivot, Afula and others - and received 10,453 requests from the general public. All the requests were answered and most were handled.