Chabad headquarters in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The United Torah Judaism party is facing a potentially serious problem for its election campaign, following the publication of a letter by one of the most influential rabbis in the Chabad movement instructing people not to vote for the main Ashkenazi haredi political party.
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, known as the transcriber and transmitter of speeches and address of the last rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, wrote a letter in this week’s edition of the Chabad weekly newspaper Kfar Chabad, in which he states that members of the Chabad community should not vote for UTJ, as they are generally accustomed to doing.
The Chabad community in Israel numbers several thousand people and according to some estimates are thought to be worth one Knesset seat by themselves.
Many traditionally vote for the mainstream haredi Ashkenazi party, but small numbers also vote for hardright national-religious parties as well.
In his letter, Kahn said that UTJ’s frequent threats to make territorial concessions due to the actions of Bayit Yehudi, the Likud and others in cutting yeshiva budgets contravene Schneerson’s instructions to preserve the unity of the Land of Israel.
Schneerson saw the Jewish return to the Land of Israel, including to Judea and Samaria in 1967, as a divine gift, and he opposed any solution that would involve conceding land for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
He also believed that making such concessions would endanger the lives of Jews in Israel.
“Those who say there is an explicit instruction to vote for the party in question are mistaken,” wrote Kahn, in reference to United Torah Judaism.
“Since the heads of the party in question are not prepared to announce that their position is against returning the territories [Judea and Samaria], (especially when in its official newspaper they write the exact opposite), then in such a situation there is no instruction at all to vote for it [UTJ],” Kahn wrote.
UTJ MKs have frequently threatened in the last two years to back a candidate for prime minister from the left-of-center political bloc, due to budget cuts to haredi yeshivas and to welfare benefits hitherto enjoyed by the haredi community.
Although the haredi public is generally right wing in terms of its view on Israel’s diplomatic concerns and the conflict with the Palestinians, Shas and United Torah Judaism have partnered with centrist and left-wing governments that have sought to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
A well-placed Chabad source told The Jerusalem Post that there is close contact between the Chabad leadership in Israel and UTJ leaders, and that the senior Chabad rabbis would seek guarantees from UTJ regarding its stance on diplomatic issues concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and territorial concessions before the election in March.