'I Don't Think Netanyahu Will Succeed': Haredi Lawmaker Not Ruling Out a Gantz Government

'I hope that this won't be the case' one United Torah Judaism lawmaker said, adding that a government led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz may be able to adapt to right-wing parties

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday at the Knesset in Jerusalem.
Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday at the Knesset in Jerusalem.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

Despite the ultra-Orthodox parties’ longtime support for opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the United Torah Judaism faction could find itself supporting a deal with Kahol Lavan leader and current Defense Minister Benny Gantz should the former prime minister fail to assemble a viable coalition.

In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, UTJ lawmaker Uri Maklev questioned Netanyahu’s ability to establish a government as Israel heads to its fifth election in three years and indicated that his party, which represents the Ashkenazi wing of Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy, would keep its options open.

“I don’t think that Netanyahu will succeed in establishing a government. I hope that this won’t be the case, I don’t want to open my mouth. It’s not a good thing. But if that’s the case, we’re talking about in another four or five months, and he doesn’t succeed and Gantz is able to put it together… I think he can also adapt to right-wing parties,” Maklev said.

“Then there will be agreement and that's what the choice will be – if it's with rotation, without rotation, I do not know what Netanyahu's personal conclusions will be in such a case. We haven’t ruled it out, and I think we will break through so there will be an understanding between the sides. I think it is too early to examine this..."

On Monday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid surprised lawmakers when they announced their agreement to hold a vote on dissolving the Knesset next week.

If the vote passes, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will become the caretaker prime minister until the elections are held on October 25th. Lapid will remain foreign minister, while Bennett will hold the role of alternate prime minister, though sources close to the prime minister say that he is weighing retiring from politics altogether.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties have been harshly critical of the Bennett government, calling it “very dangerous” and a threat to the country’s Jewish character. They have been especially harsh in their opposition to a slate of reforms to the current religious status quo championed by Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, which would see changes to how the state handles kosher certification and conversion.

They also railed against Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel’s decision to implement a new rule allowing consumers of kosher phones (which come without internet access) to change providers while keeping their numbers, a move which senior rabbis warned would cause untold spiritual harm.

Over the past decade, the ultra-Orthodox parties had become staunch allies of then-Prime Minister Netanyahu. In return, they enjoyed a continuing monopoly over several issues of domestic policy related to religion and state, as well as an exemption for ultra-Orthodox men from Israel’s mandatory military draft.

Their presence in the government gave them significant power to direct funding to their institutions and limit governmental control over their community’s affairs. Their absence from the current coalition brought their future influence into question.

JTA contributed to this report.

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