Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference, February 19th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A long list of liberal modern Orthodox and religious Zionist rabbis from Israel and the Diaspora have denounced both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi for the latter’s merger with the extremist Otzma Yehudit Party, saying it violates Israel’s values and has damaged Israel’s reputation.
The rabbis, who belong to the Torat Chayim international association of modern Orthodox Zionist rabbis, join several high-profile Jewish organizations that have criticized Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi over the political pact with Otzma.
They rabbis signatory to the letter include renowned educator Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, yeshiva deans of Ma'ale Gilboa Yeshiva Rabbis David Bigman and Yehudah Gilad, social activist Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, International Director of Inter-religious Affairs for the AJC Rabbi Dr. David Rosen, and social activist Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, among more than 80 rabbis and female Jewish leaders who also signed the letter.
The rabbis said that they were expressing their “deep disappointment and rejection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lead role,” in securing the union between Bayit Yehudi and Otzma, describing Otzma as a “racist, violently nationalist party, which justifies terrorist activity by Jews, is anti-democratic, preaches hatred toward other Jews and Arabs and glorifies Baruch Goldstein, a mass murderer of Arabs.”
They said that it was a “legitimate desire” for Netanyahu to seek victory for his political bloc but that the ends do not justify the means.
“This deal with a detestable group to get them into the Knesset will give a black eye to Israel and its standing in the world as a moral and democratic state,” wrote the Torat Chayim leaders. “This is truly a lamentable failure on the part of a leader who has focused his life on Israel's security and on strengthening its international standing.”
And the Torat Chayim rabbis had some stinging words for Bayit Yehudi as well, saying that they had “betrayed the traditions of religious Zionism, of morality, justice and accountability before God by joining with despicable people who violate fundamental principles of the Torah under the cover of claiming to be religious,” adding that “the stain of your association with evil will be permanent.”
They noted that Netanyahu promised Bayit Yehudi two ministerial posts if they agreed to the merger with Otzma, saying that they had therefore “sold the birthright of religious Zionism and created a Chillul HaShem (desecration of God's Name) in return for a mess of pottage.”
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