United Torah Judaism warned on Tuesday that it is open to all possible political
avenues after the elections and would consider joining a coalition government of
the Center-Left bloc instead of the Right.
“We’re not beholden to Bibi
[Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu], we’re not in his hands, and we won’t
automatically go with the [political] Right bloc,” a UTJ official told The
Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“There are other options and we will consider
them all,” he continued.
The source also stated that after the last
elections in 2009, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the spiritual leader of haredi
Jewry until his death earlier this year, authorized the UTJ politicians to join
a Center-Left Kadima-led coalition with Tzipi Livni at its head.
would consider joining with [Labor leader Shelly] Yacimovich, or [former prime
minister Ehud] Olmert if he decides to run,” the official said, adding that a
female prime minister was not a concern for the haredi leadership, as has been
suggested in the past.
UTJ, along with Shas, has expressed concerned over
the unification deal between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, and the possible
implications of the agreement on the advancement of secularist legislation
through the Knesset.
During the last Knesset, Yisrael Beytenu was a chief
proponent of mandatory national service for haredi yeshiva students from age 18,
anathema to the haredi parties, and was the only party to actually bring a bill
to the Knesset plenum for a vote.
Yisrael Beytenu also sponsored
legislation for the establishment of civil marriage, and for the liberalization
of the state conversion process, both of which were strongly opposed by UTJ and
The unity deal has therefore caused concern for UTJ, in that it may
be surplus to requirements after the elections.
starting point for UTJ in any coalition negotiations will be an agreement to
preserve as much as possible the previous arrangements for full-time yeshiva
students prior to the expiration of the “Tal Law” in August, in which they were
able to indefinitely postpone military service.
This will cause problems
when negotiating with “Likud Beytenu,” although one haredi affairs commentator
opined that a deal ensuring coalition discipline is not imposed on such an issue
and could smooth the path in this regard.
In addition to external
political concerns, UTJ’s internal squabbles have not let up, with an argument
over slots on the party’s electoral list continuing to fester.
in a recently formed rival party, Netzach – which is faithful to prominent
haredi leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach – continue to insist that they will run in
the coming elections regardless of the damage it might do to
Yeshayahu Wein, an editor of the new haredi daily HaPeles and a
loyalist in Auerbach’s camp, confirmed on Tuesday that the party was still
committed to running, and denied that negotiations for a compromise are being
conducted between the two sides.
“We’re open to peace talks up till the
very last minute, although its possible the last minute might already have
arrived,” he told the Post.
The establishment leadership within the Degel
Hatorah party, one half of the UTJ faction, recently ejected haredi businessman
Menahem Carmel from the third spot on Degel’s electoral list for his close ties
Auerbach has led something of an insurgency against the
recently established leadership in the haredi community of Rabbi Aharon Leib
In response to Carmel’s removal from the party list, Auerbach
supporters established and registered Netzach, which may draw vital votes away
from UTJ and cause them to lose a seat in the Knesset, even if Netzach does not
pass the electoral threshold.
Sources within the haredi political
fraternity have, however, indicated that low-level talks are being conducted and
that a compromise might still be possible.
Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni
reportedly met with Auerbach last Thursday, although party officials claimed
that it was unrelated to political matters.