,however, said that he wants such a government to include his ultra-Orthodox and religious-Zionist allies, which Gantz and his party oppose.
Support for a national unity government without the ultra-Orthodox parties is actually widespread, with some two-thirds of the Jewish Israeli public backing such a coalition, including half of all Likud voters.
According to a poll conducted by the Smith Polling Institute in August, 64% of Israeli Jews favor excluding the ultra-Orthodox parties from the next government, with 36% opposed to such a notion.
The question posed to those polled stated: “In most coalitions over the last decades, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties were part of coalition and enjoyed great influence in the realm of religion and state, including the current government. Do you support or oppose that the next coalition not include the haredi parties?”
While 64% of the general public supported exclusion, this support was also reflected across the political spectrum.
Some 51% of Likud voters backed excluding the ultra-Orthodox, as did 90% of Blue and White voters, 71% of Labor-Gesher voters, 94% of Yisrael Beytenu voters, 93% of Democratic Union voters, and 75% of undecideds.
Unsurprisingly, 92% of ultra-Orthodox voters opposed the idea, as did 67% of Yamina voters.
The poll also asked whether voters would be more or less likely to vote for a party which “committed to the principles of religious freedom and equality” regarding civil marriage and divorce, public transportation on Shabbat, ultra-Orthodox army enlistment, and similar issues.
Of those polled who described themselves as secular, 74% said it would make them more likely to vote for such a party, along with 70% of so-called “traditional” Israelis.
The poll was conducted between August 6 and 11 on a sample of 753 adults, with a margin of error of 3.6%.
The same poll, and others, have also demonstrated strong support for liberalization of the interaction of religion and state in Israel.
An August poll conducted by the NGO Hiddush found that 68% of the adult Jewish public in Israel supports the introduction of civil marriage, which would also provide state recognition of marriages performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis.
Some 60% of Likud voters supported civil marriage in the poll, as well as massive majorities of voters for other secular parties.
In Hiddush’s 2018 religion and state index, 72% of those polled said they backed some or full public transportation on Shabbat, and 68% said local municipalities should have the authority to permit limited commerce on Shabbat.
The mini-markets law passed at the behest of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the last Knesset gives the interior minister the right to veto a municipal bylaw passed by a local municipal authority allowing greater commercial activity in its jurisdiction on Shabbat.
Leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party Arye Deri was the interior minister in the last government, and he rejected several bylaws passed to allow more stores to open on Shabbat in various cities.
Hiddush director Rabbi Uri Regev rejected claims that it was discriminatory or “antisemitic” to exclude the ultra-Orthodox parties from government, and said that comparisons made by ultra-Orthodox politicians to excluding Ethiopians or Druze were not valid.
“It is incredible chutzpah to declare that no one would dare exclude Ethiopians or Druze from the government, as if there is any kind of analogy here,” said Regev. “I don’t know of any Ethiopians or Druze who have tried to coerce the public into their religious outlook. There is a deep seated opposition to the notion that the tail is wagging the dog and in a manner which is painful for the dog.”