The Council of Torah Sages of the Degel Hatorah party, the non-hassidic half of
the ultra- Orthodox United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, selected on Monday
night current Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher to be the third-placed candidate on
their electoral party list.
The selection has been the focus of high
tensions within the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi world over the past few
months, with officials of two rival camps within the community insisting on the
appointment of one of their respective partisans to the number three
The choice of Asher will not have significant electoral bearing
since Degel’s third spot will only be placed seventh in UTJ’s combined list with
the faction’s other component, the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party – and recent
polls show UTJ taking only six Knesset seats.
But the decision will have
a considerable impact on the internal politics of the haredi world in light of
the divisions within the Lithuanian community and the disputes regarding
political representation that have arisen as a result.
“Jerusalemite faction” led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach resents the newly acquired
leadership and dominance of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, who inherited the
mantle of spiritual leader of the Lithuanian community following the death of
previous leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.
In response to its
marginalization, the Jerusalemite faction registered a new political party,
Netzach, and has threatened to run in the coming elections against UTJ if its
demands regarding the third spot on the list are not met.
Netzach would in all likelihood not pass the electoral threshold, it could
divert enough voters away from UTJ that it would lose one of its seats in the
Haredi businessman and political figure Menahem Carmel was the
third-placed Degel candidate in the previous elections, but Shteinman removed
him from the list because of his close ties to Auerbach – a move which greatly
angered the Jerusalemite faction.
Auerbach, who is a member of Degel’s
Council of Torah Sages, did not participate in Monday night’s
Asher has served as Bnei Brak mayor since 2008.
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