Israel Election Results: Ultra-Orthodox Leader Says Better to Work With Arab Parties Than Left

Following Islamist party leader's speech, statement from Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky says it's preferable to cooperate with those who respect religion than with the left

Aaron Rabinowitz
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Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, last year.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz

The leader of the moderate "Lithuanian" non-Hasidic part of the ultra-Orthodox community said Friday that it was preferable to join a government with Arab parties than with parties whose positions are not based on religious values.

The statement from Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the spiritual leader of most of the United Torah Judaism party's constituents, came a day after Mansour Abbas, the chairman of the Islamist, conservative United Arab List party who has refused to rule out joining any particular coalition, made a speech emphasizing Jewish and Arab cooperation.

"The rabbi was asked about the possibility of forming a government that would rely on the support of the Arab parties as opposed to the support of anti-religious parties and said that cooperation with those who respect religion and Jewish tradition is better than those who persecute religion," read Kanievsky's statement.

Channel 12 News reported Thursday that Kanievsky prefers cooperation with Arab parties over cooperation with the left’s secular parties because he believes Arab parties are closer to the ultra-Orthodox parties in terms of family values and respect for religion. The report also said that Kanievsky had conveyed this message to the representatives of Degel Hatorah, one of the two parties that run jointly on the United Torah Judaism ticket.

Last week's election saw neither the parties allied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or those opposing him with a clear majority. The parties backing Netanyahu received a total of 52 seats, rising to 59 seats if the uncommitted but right-wing Yamina party agrees to join a coalition with them. Adding the UAL's four seats would give these parties a majority of the Knesset's 120 seats.

However, Bezalel Smotrich, the chairman of the far-right Religious Zionism party, has vowed not to join a government that includes the UAL, calling Abbas "a supporter of terrorism." Therefore, if Netanyahu managed to win over the UAL but lost Religious Zionism's six seats, he would still not have a majority.