Internal Rifts Could Shake UTJ's 6 Seats

United Torah Judaism is the one party that has never actually had to campaign: A proclamation by the leading Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox rabbis was enough to get its voters to turn out en masse. But this time, an unprecedented revolt among its voters forced it to get into the trenches.

To make matters worse, an internal war among the slate's various religious sects nearly foiled its effort to recruit the necessary rabbinic signatures. And it did prevent two of the party's best-known Knesset members, Meir Porush and Yaakov Litzman, from campaigning openly, since each is loathed by the other's camp. Hence the work was done mainly by three or four new faces on the list.

UTJ hopes that its efforts over the last two weeks, climaxed by a rare public event in which leading rabbis told their public that voting was "a duty, not an option," will enable it to maintain its current six seats. But the rifts that emerged in this campaign are liable to haunt the party long after Election Day.