The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party would be ready to join a post-election coalition with the Labor Party, even if it pursues a dovish diplomatic policy, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said Sunday.
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“After years of going with the Likud, today UTJ would have no problem joining a coalition led by Bougie [Isaac] Herzog after the election,” Gafni said. “I never said this before but I’m saying it now: We are going to these elections over the socioeconomic issue, and if Herzog succeeds in forming a government, we’ll support him. We’ll also follow him on the diplomatic issue.”
While Gafni seems to be flirting with the left, his words must be taken with a grain of salt. For example, in an interview Sunday he gave to the Knesset Channel, he was already backtracking from his threat to “never forgive Netanyahu,” which he had issued after the draft law regulating Haredi conscription passed, and from his declarations that the Haredim would no longer support Netanyahu.
As a seasoned politician who in three months’ time is liable to find himself able to tip the scales, Gafni isn’t prepared to commit to either Herzog or Netanyahu, but he has been demonstrating increasing warmth for the left. In the Knesset Channel interview, he said, “If someone is trying to set up an alternative government at the last minute, he will have to do it without us. Listen to me, I’m telling the truth here in a live broadcast: We’re going to elections. If Bougie succeeds in forming a government, we’ll support him.”
Later he told Haaretz that the new approach to Labor didn’t stem solely from a desire to punish Netanyahu for anti-Haredi legislation and the cutting of hundreds of thousands of shekels from the yeshiva budgets. “Unlike many other politicians, I’m very plugged in to the street,” he said. “I go to synagogue three times a day and all day I hear, ‘This time we have to go with Bougie.’ We will also go along on the diplomatic issue. People are prepared to talk about the diplomatic issue. True, I’m not talking about the people from Chabad, who are more right-wing.”
In the most recent issue of the Haredi weekly Mishpacha, there was an article about UTJ’s cooperation, and particularly Gafni’s, with the left-wing institute Molad – Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy. According to Gafni, “Our cooperation with Molad is on economic, not political issues, and focuses on the struggle against Habayit Hayehudi diverting yeshiva budgets to the settlements.”