Are Israel's Orthodox Parties Trying to Inch Back Into Coalition Through Yeshiva Funding Negotiations?

Shas and United Torah Judaism commit to stay out of Benjamin Netanyahu's government if Naftali Bennett's party is forced to exit.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The 18 MKs representing Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties have asked the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party to help cancel budget cuts targeting yeshivas and religious institutions.

In a letter Wednesday, the MKs committed not to join Benjamin Netanyahu's government if the prime minister drops Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition.

“As the vote on the budget and the Economic Arrangements Bill approaches, we turn to you to reverse the proposal to cut the budgets of yeshivas, Torah institutions and schools,” the MKs wrote. “We commit that, if voting with us results in your removal from the coalition, we will not enter the coalition in your place.”

The ultra-Orthodox parties – Shas and United Torah Judaism – approached Habayit Hayehudi after a period of tension over the religious-Zionist party's plans to reform the draft. The main disagreement is the decision for hesder-yeshiva students – who combine religious study with military service – to serve only 17 months, while Haredi conscripts would serve about two years.

“The state budget and concerns about the world of Torah learning are unsuited to [Shas chairman] Aryeh Deri’s gimmicks," a source in Habayit Hayehudi said. "On the other hand, it's encouraging that this time they didn’t call us the Gentile Home,” he said, referring to an earlier remark based on Habayit Hayehudi's name, which means the Jewish Home.

In the past year, Netanyahu’s aides have not concealed that he preferred a coalition with the Haredi parties. But Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid, which came in second in the January election, forced Netanyahu to favor Habayit Hayehudi and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah over Shas and United Torah Judaism. Still, Likud has not relinquished ideas about renewing its traditional partnership with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Observers say Habayit Hayehudi could leave the coalition if Netanyahu launches intensive peace talks with the Palestinians. Likud sources say that in such a situation, Netanyahu would prefer to bring in the Haredi parties and Labor, though Wednesday's letter appears to preclude that option.

In another variant, Labor could join the coalition without the Haredi parties. In that case, though Shas has 11 Knesset seats and Habayit Hayehudi 12, Shas chief Deri could head the opposition because of the 18-strong Haredi MKs. Plus, it's unlikely left-wing Meretz or the Arab parties would support Bennett for the position.

From left: Benjamin Netanyahu, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Aryeh Deri.Credit: Alex Levac

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott