A letter leaked to the press over the weekend shed new light on the seriousness
with which the mainstream haredi leadership is taking the political discontent
felt by certain factions in the ultra- Orthodox community.
efforts of officials from the establishment party of the non-hassidic Ashkenazi
haredi community, Degel Hatorah, to play down the threat of the newly
established Netzach party running in the upcoming elections, a letter detailing
the approach of the senior haredi leadership connected to Degel Hatorah shows
greater concern to the problem than has hitherto been admitted.
the document, first published by haredi website Ladaat, conjectures that Rabbi
Shmuel Auerbach, the figure around whom Netzach has coalesced, will not
authorize the party leaders to contest the elections, the mainstream haredi
officials who wrote the missive expressed concern that Auerbach may call on his
supporters not to vote at all.
Auerbach’s supporters have been estimated
at no more than 10,000 possible voters, but the loss of this number of votes
would mean that the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, to which Degel
belongs, would almost certainly lose a Knesset seat.
Among other plans to
avert this eventuality, the letter, seemingly authored by close associates of
the senior haredi leadership based in Bnei Brak, calls for one party official to
enlist the help of the Amshenov hassidic leader, who is on good terms with
Auerbach, to reiterate to the rabbi that “his associates are acting against the
wishes of the leading rabbis, the Rosh Yeshiva [spiritual leader of the haredi
community Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman] and Rabbi Haim [Kanievsky].”
letter also recommended that those dealing with the delicate contacts between
the mainstream Degel Hatorah party and Auerbach’s so-called “Jerusalem-faction”
should do sensitively and “without aggression.”
Cognizant of the not
insignificant level of public support Auerbach enjoys, the Bnei Brak officials
also laid out a conciliatory message to the haredi public, which should stress
that “Rabbi Auerbach is without doubt one of the greatest living rabbis of the
time but there are those who are greater than him at this
Shteinman and Auerbach have been at loggerheads since the former
inherited the mantle of leadership from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the leader
of the haredi world until his death in July.
Separately, Degel Hatorah
chairman MK Moshe Gafni repeated UTJ’s threat that the faction is not beholden
to the Likud or the rightist Knesset bloc, while speaking on a political panel
at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya on Thursday.
Asked whether UTJ
was “married” to the right-wing grouping of Knesset factions, Gafni responded,
“Married? No, we’re still single.”
“[Then-Kadima chairwoman] Tzipi Livni
promised us the same things [as the Right] and, as opposed to the Right which
doesn’t know to fulfill [its promises], she came through on hers,” Gafni said,
citing various examples of how Kadima had cooperated with UTJ, including the
implementation of the “Tal Law” that allows haredi men to indefinitely postpone
During the discussion, Gafni described UTJ as a party
of social justice and said that in the coming Knesset term it would concentrate
on socioeconomic issues and “the identity of the Jewish state.”
about how to solve the standoff between the Zionist and haredi parties over
drafting yeshiva students into national service, Gafni repeated his oft-stated
position that those not studying full-time in yeshiva should be drafted into the
national service tracks designed for haredim.
“Learning Torah all day
long requires a lot of strength,” he said. “A large proportion can’t do this,
[and] there are thousands today who are going to work, who are going to the
army, these processes are under way,” he said.
“On the other hand, one
cannot force someone who is learning Torah not to do so,” Gafni
He also accused Kadima of trying to make political capital
out of the issue to gain seats in Knesset.