Ultra-Orthodox Parties on the Fence About Supporting Netanyahu

After Shas makes similar statement, United Torah Judaism partner declares neutrality in coalition wars.

Yair Ettinger
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An archive photo from June 2011 showing Knesset Member Moshe Gafni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Emil Salman
Yair Ettinger

Degel Hatorah, the main component of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, has said it would not promise to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the next election, but neither would it help to bring down his government by agreeing to join an alternative coalition. “We are not making any commitments, we’re in the bleachers,” MK Moshe Gafni told Haaretz on Sunday.

Netanyahu had asked the three Degel Hatorah MKs to pledge their support for him after the election in exchange for the immediate dissolution of the government.

Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri also weighed in on Sunday on the question of an early election, and said that Shas and the other Haredi parties are ready. Speaking at a conference of hevra kadisha burial societies, Deri said the parties had made their decision, adding, “We don’t play games. This government is terrible and needs to be dissolved, but openly.”

Deri told Netanyahu that Shas could not promise to support him for premier in the next government.

Degel Hatorah’s MKs — Gafni, Uri Maklev and Yaakov Asher — met on Sunday with the head of the “Lithuanian” (non-Hasidic) Haredi stream to which they belong, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, to decide their response to Netanyahu’s request, which was first reported by Haaretz last week. While Shas had already decided, Netanyahu was waiting for word from Shteinman, since Degel Hatorah is considered dominant in Haredi politics.

In an interview to Israel Channel 2 news on Saturday night, Deri said he had agreed not to cooperate with efforts to oust Netanyahu if the prime minister announced that he wanted an early election soon. “I told Netanyahu we would promise not to replace this government using no-confidence measures, that we would be loyal to him until the election, but I wasn’t prepared to say what would happen after that,” Deri said.