Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman launches Yisrael Beitenu on January 20, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Yisrael Beytenu compared haredim to Hamas terrorists in an ad for a campaign that has taken an increasingly anti-haredi tone in recent weeks.
With ominous-sounding music playing in the background and photos of masked Hamas terrorists followed by haredim setting fires in dumpsters, the video’s message was: “It doesn’t matter if you surrender to those who raise weapons or those who refuse to raise weapons. Surrender is surrender.”
“Stop transferring money to Hamas. Pass [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman’s haredi enlistment law
,” the video states, concluding with the party’s slogan, an Israeli expression that translates as a cross between “doesn’t give a damn” and “won’t be cowed.”
The signs of an anti-haredi campaign were there from the day Liberman presented his party’s campaign last month, in which there were signs indicating the various things that don’t intimidate him, including MK Ahmed Tibi, Hamas, haredim, BDS and left-wing NGO B’Tselem.
Asked at the time if he is really comparing haredim and Hamas, Liberman did not back down, calling haredim “people who attack soldiers in the street,” a reference to occasional incidents of violence generally against haredi IDF soldiers returning home in uniform.
Said Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur: “Liberman crosses the lines of morality, and is trying to base his political survival and last chance to be relevant on baseless hatred.”
In recent weeks, Liberman has used similar messages, such as a Facebook post in which he wrote: “The haredi parties try again and again to change the status quo in matters of religion and state. In this term we stood as a bulwark against the bizarre demands and bills that they brought up time and again. We didn’t always succeed. We were alone against a bloc of the haredi parties, Likud and Bayit Yehudi.”
Now, Liberman warned, the haredim are planning to turn Israel into a theocracy, and he will not allow that to happen.
“We are for Judaism, but not for religious coercion. We have nothing against haredim, but we put the people who serve in the army, do reserve duty, work and pay taxes first,” he said.
Liberman also sent a “covenant” on religion and state to parties that “represent the secular population,” meant to block “endless attempts by the haredi parties to force a religious-haredi lifestyle on the secular-traditional public in Israel.”
No parties responded to the covenant, which called to pass a law to enlist haredim into the IDF immediately, allow necessary construction work on Shabbat, allow local rabbis to conduct conversions, permit civil marriages, and not have more businesses be closed on Saturdays than already are closed, and for there to be public transportation on Shabbat in secular areas.
Haredi MKs mostly kept quiet in response to the Yisrael Beytenu campaign.
Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni told haredi radio station Kol Hai on Sunday that Liberman’s “situation in the polls is bad, so he apparently decided the only thing he has left is to attack haredim, that we’ll surely answer and that’ll give him more seats. We decided not to respond. In any case, his remarks aren’t gaining traction.”
“I don’t want him to pass the electoral threshold,” Gafni added. “He isn’t worth anything and doesn’t know how to show gratitude for anything. We supported [Jerusalem mayoral candidate Moshe] Lion when Liberman had an interest for [Lion] to be elected. Why is he betraying us and attacking us and comparing us to Hamas?... He will continue dropping in the polls.”
Yisrael Beytenu teamed up with Degel HaTorah, the party Gafni leads within UTJ, and Shas to support Lion in last year’s Jerusalem mayoral election. The matter created a rift between Degel and Agudat Yisrael, the other party in UTJ, which fielded its own candidate. The sides have since put the dispute behind them, and are running for the next Knesset together.