Liberman sought radical haredi rabbi support in Lion’s 2013 candidacy

Liberman agreed to ban Jerusalem gay pride march in efforts to secure support of extremist ultra-Orthodox group behind campaign of incitement against ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF.

Moshe Lion, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Moshe Lion, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In what may prove to be a highly embarrassing incident, video footage has emerged of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman meeting with radical haredi leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach in 2013 in which Liberman sought Auerbach’s support, and that of his followers, for Moshe Lion’s mayoral candidacy.
The video, broadcast by Channel 12 News on Tuesday night, shows Liberman meeting with Auerbach, who has since passed away, discussing issues such as the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
Auerbach was the leader until his death in 2018 of the radical Jerusalem Faction, a splinter group from the main political non-hassidic, ultra-Orthodox grouping Degel Hatorah.
Liberman is a close associate of Lion and gave him strong backing in the 2013 Jerusalem mayoral election which he ultimately lost, although went on to be elected Jerusalem mayor in 2018.
“There won’t be all these marches that they do here and the festival of the gays,” Liberman said to the rabbi, apparently promising that Lion would prevent the annual pride march.
Another video showed Liberman speaking with one of Auerbach’s most senior advisers who requested that Liberman thwart legislation designed to increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF.
As the adviser asks him explicitly for a commitment to state that he will not allow legislation which targets young ultra-Orthodox men for national service and not young Arab men as well, the video cuts out.
Channel 12 reported that a senior Jerusalem Faction figure claimed Liberman agreed to the proposal, although Yisrael Beytenu said that Liberman refused the proposal and that Lion therefore did not gain the support of the Jerusalem Faction in the election which he ultimately lost to incumbent Nir Barkat.
In July 2013, Yisrael Beytenu ministers abstained in a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation to approve passage of an ultra-Orthodox enlistment bill to the Knesset because it did not include provisions for obligatory enlistment of Israeli Arabs to some form of national service.
Yisrael Beytenu MKs did however vote in favor of that same legislation which passed into law in March 2014.
It was not immediately clear exactly when Liberman’s meetings with Auerbach and his adviser took place.
Liberman said in response to the report that it was “cheap gossip,” and insinuated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was behind the leaking of the video.
“I can understand the pressure of the ultra-Orthodox, the [new] law for ultra-Orthodox enlistment will pass exactly as is… The person who is spreading this [video] understands that he has no way of stopping a liberal, broad national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox and without the [hard-line religious-Zionist] messianics,” said Liberman.
Liberman has conducted a militant election campaign denouncing the influence and power of the ultra-Orthodox and hard-line religious parties, and vowing to block them from entering the next government.
The ultra-Orthodox parties have in the main refrained from responding to his attacks, but have sought to cast him as a hypocrite given what they describe as his record of cooperation with them during his years in government.