The haredi community is sweating over its political future as a result of the
strong showing of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party in Tuesday’s Knesset
Despite a strong showing at the polls for both Shas and United
Torah Judaism, with the latter managing to increase its Knesset representation
from six to seven, the rise of the secularist-centrist Yesh Atid to become the
second largest party may pose great difficulties for the country’s
Lapid, whose meteoric rise surprised many, has pledged to
focus on social issues, including that of equality of military service, and may
make support for action on this issue a prerequisite for entering into a
coalition with the Likud. He has previously stated that he will not enter into a
coalition that includes both Shas and UTJ.
It is now possible, Yedidia
Stern of the Israel Democracy Institute said on Thursday, that “if Prime
Minister Netanyahu wants, he can form a coalition without the haredim. Yesh
Atid, which is a crucial partner of Netanyahu this time, could make the drafting
issue a condition for the coalition agreement. So all this is a real threat for
The haredi community is “very very worried,” Rabbi Shmuel
Pappenheim, the former spokesman of the anti- Zionist hassidic umbrella
organization, the Edah Haredit, told The Jerusalem Post.
member of the insular Toldos Aharon sect, is nowadays considered a haredi
moderate. He has worked with Yesh Atid MK-elect Rabbi Dov Lipman to calm
religious tensions in Beit Shemesh.
“These are new people in politics and
nobody knows them and no one knows Yair Lapid except through the media,”
Pappenheim said. “I went out to inform several haredi organizations that I know
them and that there is nothing to fear, but they are all very much stressed and
fearful. They are scared that they will not be allowed into the
coalition, and if they are, it will be with many concessions.”
political parties, Pappenheim asserted, “don’t know what to do at all. They are
looking for people with whom to open a dialogue with this new party.”
the same time, the parties are “trying to lean on Netanyahu and people within
the Likud with whom they know how to deal, but with Lapid, in a direct manner,
and his party, there is currently no give and take.”
The word on the
haredi street is that “Lapid is very populist and he will try bend the haredi
community,” Pappenheim said.
The haredim believe, however, that they will
win in the end, he asserted.
“There are those who know that there will be
some sort of compromise and are discussing how to do that, and there are those
in the community who say that it is forbidden to discuss any sort of
According to Pappenheim, haredi politicians are worried over
obtaining positions in the new government.
MK Arye Deri, one of the three
top leaders of Shas, acted confident following the publication of the election
results, saying that his party receiving 11 mandates was a “miracle.”
Yishai, another member of the party’s ruling triumvirate, told Channel 10 that
“no coalition government will be established without the inclusion of
His brave face belies a grave worry, said Uri Regev, head of the
NGO Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality.
“While the haredi
leadership is voicing satisfaction from their achievements, being able to
maintain their representation, and in the case of United Torah Judaism to grow
it, the truth behind those smiling faces and confident statements is a
tremendous fear and anxiety over the new political landscape,” he told the Post.
“They understand that the long era in which the well-being of the government
depended on their goodwill, and therefore they could name their price and get it
in return for their votes, is over.”
Regev may have been referring to a
statement attributed in the press to an anonymous senior member of Shas who said
that his party was “not shying away from going into the opposition. We’ve been
As Lapid’s party continued to climb in the polls during
the campaign, the worries of the haredi community could be seen by way of the
strident posters adorning walls and hanging from balconies in their
One such poster read: “We stand on the watch. No compromises
or concessions,” while another bore the slogan “Against the decrees we are all
In Bnei Brak, some haredim even received fake draft
notices from UTJ instructing them to report for induction the day after the
Yesh Atid can accomplish “positive things, but it can also be
the cause of negative things,” said Eli Friedman, the head of the moderate
haredi Tov party in Beit Shemesh. The party fields candidates in municipal but
not national elections.
If Yesh Atid “doesn’t act with smarts the haredim
will go out to the streets in protest,” Friedman said. “They fear
Lipman has a more positive view of the relationship that his party
can have with his community.
“During the campaign I was attacked a lot
about my association with Yair, and they even made jokes about my unrealistic
spot on the list,” Lipman told the Post. “Now they are talking about how Yair
has values and does not hate them, that our plan is something they can work with
and that I am ‘a haredi MK for Yesh Atid.’”
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