(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Col. (res.) Moshe Hager-Lau, who is also a rabbi, announced that he would be joining renegade Shas MK Eli Yishai’s Yachad Ha’am Itanu party, and would be one of the faction’s Knesset candidates for the coming elections.
On Thursday, Yachad publicly rejected the idea of uniting with the hard-right Otzma Yehudit party, led by Michael Ben-Ari.
Following the announcement that he was joining Yachad on Wednesday, Hager-Lau said; “This is an ideal partnership.
In my opinion this is the beginning of a true Jewish, Torah oriented movement which is finally breaking the barriers of hatred between [those who wear] crocheted yarmulkes [the national-religious community] and the haredi public,” he continued.
“I thank Eli Yishai for giving me the opportunity to return with pride to my roots in the Torah world while protecting the Land of Israel. Until now, those who are faithful to the Torah among the national-religious community have sat on the fence, out of a desire to examine and understand the essence of the party.
Hager is firmly anchored in the conservative, Torah oriented wing of the national-religious sector, but is also a scion of the Viznitz hassidic dynasty, and is also closely related to the family of former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and current Chief Rabbi David Lau.
Alongside his military career, Hager established a premilitary preparation academy in the settlement of Beit Yatir in 1991, in the southern region of Judea and Samaria, south of Hebron.
Yishai has said that his new party will unite different sectors of society, including Ashkenazim, Sephardim, haredim and the national-religious, and the appointment of Hager to Yachad’s list could give greater credence to this claim and expand the faction’s electoral appeal.
It is not yet clear whether Hager will be given the third or fourth berth on the Yahcad list.
The first two spots are occupied by Yishai and MK Yoni Chetboun, formerly of Bayit Yehudi.
Hager said that the favorable comments made by Yachad’s spiritual patron the haredi Rabbi Meir Mazuz about the standing of one of the ideological forefathers of the religious- Zionist movement, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, as well as Mazuz’s opinion that it is a religious duty to serve in the IDF for those who do not dedicate their lives to Torah study, proved that the new faction expressed “a true, substantive and spiritual change in the concept of the tribes of Israel together.”
The overwhelming majority of leading haredi rabbis regard Kook’s teachings with deep suspicion because of his support for the Zionist cause, and most haredi yeshivot and institutions refuse to include Kook’s works in their libraries.
Senior haredi leaders have also refused to publicly state that haredi men not studying full-time in yeshiva should serve in the IDF.
Yishai lauded Hager’s decision to join his party and said that it underlined the ideological differences between Yachad and his old political home Shas.
“Anyone who thinks the Yachad party will be a type of Shas Mark II received their answer today, and sees that we’re talking about a pure, Torah-oriented party of all the people of Israel, Haredim, [national] religious, secular and traditional [people],” said Yishai.
“Rabbi Hager-Lau’s decision to join is in my opinion the realization of the dream of unity and the vision which I fought for. The Yachad party is a new political home, warm and embracing for all those who see the completeness of the Torah, the people and the land as a their guiding light.”
Construction Minister Uri Ariel of Bayit Yehudi called on Yishai to unite the Yachad and Otzma Yehudit factions and not waste votes on the Right, which would happen if neither party managed to cross the electoral threshold.
In response, Chetboun said that Yachad was the “home for the entire right-wing and those who love the Land of Israel,” adding that “if the future of Ben-Ari is of concern to the minister he is invited to reserve a spot for him on the Bayit Yehudi [list].”
Chetboun said that in two polls conducted this week by Panels, one for Maariv and one for the Knesset Channel, Yachad crossed the electoral threshold with four seats in both opinion polls. Several other polls, including one this week, however, have put them just under the required share of the vote to enter the Knesset.