Members of the Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael parties.
(photo credit: UNITED TORAH JUDAISM)
Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah have agreed to run on a joint electoral list once again under the United Torah Judaism banner, with Degel having made significant gains in the Ashkenazi haredi political union.
Degel, representing the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” community, will have three candidates in the top six instead of two as was the case in 2015 and will have first choice on government and Knesset roles.
Additionally, for the upcoming elections for the 21st Knesset, Agudah will take the first spot on the list and all the odd-numbered positions, while for elections for the 22nd Knesset, the situation will be reversed and Degel will have pole position.
Agudah, representing the hassidic community, will however be given first dibs on government and Knesset jobs in the 22nd Knesset.
Nevertheless, if UTJ receives seven seats in the forthcoming elections, as polls indicate, Agudah will still have an extra MK over Degel, although that position could be reversed in the subsequent election, should the political union be preserved.
The imbalance in the allocation of Knesset seats to Agudah is a historical phenomenon in which it was believed that the hassidic community was numerically larger than the non-hassidic community, and led to a 60:40 Knesset seat ratio in favor of Agudah.
It is now believed that the two communities are largely equal in size, and this together with significant victories for Degel in the recent nation-wide municipal elections meant that Agudah conceded this historic imbalance.
The disparity has generated resentment within Degel for several years, and had an impact on relations with Agudah over the course of the current Knesset, and during the municipal elections campaign.
In the 2015 election, UTJ surprisingly took only six seats, instead of its predicted seven, meaning that Agudah had four MKs to Degel’s two.
Agudah MK Meir Porush who was appointed Deputy Education Minister eventually resigned as an MK under the terms of the so-called Norwegian Law to allow seventh placed Degel candidate Yaakov Asher to take up his slot in Knesset and even out the balance of power.
This step did not come quickly however and led to internal fighting and recriminations between the two parties.
And the relationship between the two parties descended to a nadir in recent months due to infighting over municipal council elections.
Following the signing of the agreement on Wednesday, Degel chairman MK Moshe Gafni said that the agreement was "equitable" which "gives pleasure to the great [haredi rabbinical] leaders of the generation living and deceased."
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman who serves as chairfman of both Agudah and UTJ, said that UTJ was now "fully united" as the coming elections approach. He called the agreement "a sanctification of God’s name."
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