Right, Left fight over haredi support on settlements

Left convinced haredim willing to vote to evacuate settlements, while Right seek to advance building projects for haredi sector.

August 15, 2013 10:00
2 minute read.
Haredi man looks over crowd

Haredi man looks over crowd 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians only restarted in earnest Wednesday night, but a battle has already begun, just in case the talks succeed: A battle for support from the haredim.

The Knesset is divided 61- 59 between parties identified with the Right and Left. But MKs on the Left are convinced that should there be a vote in the current Knesset on evacuating settlements, the haredim will be on their side.

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“The haredi parties will be partners in the peace process,” Hatnua MK Amram Mitzna told the haredi radio station Kol Chai this week.

“A majority can be created in the Knesset for evacuating settlements.”

Mitzna said haredi MKs have told him they cannot wait to take revenge against Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett for blocking their parties from entering the coalition. He said he could also see a scenario whereby haredi parties join the current coalition at Bayit Yehudi’s expense when the diplomatic talks with the Palestinians progress.

“The priorities of the haredim have changed,” Mitzna said. “They say they aren’t in anyone’s pocket anymore. They know the Right has always betrayed them.”

Organizations and lobbies on the Left have been pursuing haredi MKs for years. Shas MKs Yitzhak Cohen and Yitzhak Vaknin have been involved in the Geneva Initiative and the Knesset Caucus for Two States. Vaknin will speak at next month’s J Street Conference in Washington.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in January, Shas leader Arye Deri said his party’s mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, would back a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians.

“Shas is not Right or Left,” Deri said. “We ask rabbis what to do and we go by what they say. We aren’t nationalist. We believe Israel is ours because God gave it to us. I don’t believe I am an occupier. Our rabbis will decide what is best to do to avoid blood being spilled.”

The Right also understands the importance of the haredim and their votes in the Knesset. Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said Wednesday that he would advance building projects for the haredi sector not only in Betar Illit and Modi’in Illit on the Green Line but also in Tel Zion, a haredi neighborhood of the Kochav Ya’acov settlement north of Jerusalem that is not considered part of a settlement bloc.

“It is wrong to look at haredim as second-class citizens,” Ariel said. “They deserve building, too.”

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