(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Senior haredi MK Moshe Gafni stated categorically on Tuesday that Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic half of United Torah Judaism, will not back Benny Gantz for prime minister after the coming general election, and reiterated his party’s backing for current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gafni was reacting to earlier reports that despite Degel and UTJ’s antipathy for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who is running together with Gantz on the joint Blue and White list, Degel could back Gantz for prime minister.
“Degel Hatorah is going with Bibi [Netanyahu], as we have said from the beginning,” averred Gafni in a video released to the press.
“We will not sit whatsoever with Lapid, we won’t support Gantz, we are going with Bibi and any comments and headlines to the contrary on this matter are just a distraction and incorrect,” he continued.
UTJ has long ruled out sitting in a government with Lapid due to the measures the 33rd government took against various haredi interests and benefits, referring to these policies as “the decrees of Lapid.”
Gantz will struggle to form a government without the haredi parties if current polling is accurate, and his alliance with Lapid has given him severe problems in this regard.
Gafni also entered into a diatribe against Lapid, alleging that UTJ’s opposition to sitting in government with the Yesh Atid leader was primarily due to his record as finance minister, which the haredi politician described as poor.
“Lapid’s failures do not begin with the haredim, but rather with that he was a bad finance minister and did damage to the Israeli economy. If he wants to be the foreign minister then Israel’s [currently] successful foreign policy will be harmed. We think he is not fit for office for a thousand and one reasons.”
Earlier on Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post’s
Israeli sister paper, Maariv
, reported that sources in UTJ had not ruled out joining a coalition led by the Blue and White Party if Netanyahu cannot form a government, so long as the premiership rotation agreed upon by Blue and White co-chairmen Gantz and Lapid is canceled.
“From the start, we have no problem with Gantz; our problem is with Lapid,” a senior source in Degel Hatorah told Maariv.
“If Gantz announces the cancellation of the rotation agreement with Lapid, there is a possibility of entering the government he heads – if, of course, we get the items that are important to us.”
According to the agreement made between Gantz and Lapid, if Blue and White wins the election, Gantz will serve as prime minister for two-and-a-half year and then transfer the reins to Lapid, who would serve for two more years.
It should be noted that members of the Degel Hatorah faction are considered more moderate than Knesset members from Agudat Israel, headed by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman.
MK Uri Maklev of UTJ said about the possibility of entering the government headed by Gantz: “We are not discussing this now… Right now, we are busy strengthening the right-wing bloc.”
On Monday, Gantz declared that there would be no connection between his party and the Arab party led by Ahmad Tibi. Therefore, a coalition with the haredim becomes one of the only options, apart from a unity government with the Likud.
Upon reading the report in Maariv, MK Bezalel Smotrich called the news “disturbing.”
“I expect the ultra-Orthodox parties to shun Blue and White and declare that they will not sit in a Gantz government,” he said. “Those who strive to preserve the Land of Israel, the settlements and the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, will not in any way shape of form sit in a Gantz government.”Maariv contributed to this report.
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