MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) speaks at a finance committee meeting on January 15th, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Degel Hatorah Party in Jerusalem has decided to run separately from Agudat Yisrael due to a dispute over the division of seats in the city council between the two parties.
The Degel leadership, including national MKs and leading Jerusalem rabbis from the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” sector represented by the party, reportedly met on Tuesday night and decided to split from Agudah.
The two Haredi parties run on the joint ticket of United Torah Judaism in many municipalities around the country, and have run together nationally in the UTJ alliance since 1992.
In the 2013 municipal elections in Jerusalem, UTJ garnered eight seats on the municipal council; Agudah took five seats and Degel took three under a mutual agreement reflecting a longstanding understanding that the hassidic population is greater than the “Lithuanian” non-hassidic Haredi population.
This assumption, which has applied nationally as well, has been challenged in recent years by Degel, which now claims that it has the bigger population and deserves at least parity in the number of city council seats and Knesset seats when it runs on the joint UTJ list with Agudah.
“We feel that in the united list we don’t get our share according to what we deserve, so we will run separately and hope that we will get what we deserve in this way,” said Eliezer Roucherberger, a member of Degel Hatorah and a Jerusalem Municipal Council member for UTJ.
“We believe that we should have five seats and they should have three,” he insisted. “We feel that we have been discriminated against for the entire five years of the current municipal council – there’s no doubt about that.”
Roucherberger said that Agudah had not agreed to any compromise and insisted that the current ratio be preserved for the upcoming elections.
Yohanan Weitzman, another UTJ member of the council from Agudat Yisrael, argued however that Degel has lost segments of the non-hassidic Haredi community and therefore cannot claim parity in representation.
In particular, he noted that the Jerusalem Faction, a radical splinter group from the mainstream non-hassidic community, now votes for its own party, Bnei Torah, and not Degel Hatorah.
Weitzman also pointed out that whereas in the past Belz hassidim, a significant population in Jerusalem, had voted for Degel they now vote for Agudah.
“If they are right [that they have parity in numbers to Agudah] then let’s run separately and we’ll see it in the election, maybe they’ll be right and I’ll raise my hands,” he said.
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