(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas chairman Arye Deri said that his party would not join a government until after the next elections, following reports of serious coalition feuding over the “Jewish state” bill that was approved by the cabinet on Sunday.
Reports in the Hebrew media suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had done a deal with Deri to bring Shas into the coalition at the expense of Yesh Atid.
As the rumors grew, the Shas chairman stepped in and said categorically that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties would not be joining the coalition.
“A new government will only be formed after the elections,” Deri said. “The prime minister must dissolve the Knesset immediately and go to elections. What we have now is a divided, dispute-ridden government that has failed in every realm and is unable to provide its citizens with what they deserve, which is a government that works for them not against them.”
Netanyahu is thought to be very open to bringing in the haredi parties, who have served as loyal Likud allies in the past, and has reportedly made several attempts to do so.
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni also said on Sunday that joining the coalition “is not on the agenda” for the haredi parties as long Yesh Atid remained part of the government, but added that “there’s no such thing as a bill of divorce in politics,” alluding to possible future cooperation with Netanyahu and the Likud.
On Thursday, MK Ya’acov Litzman of United Torah Judaism said that there had been two “serious offers” from Netanyahu to the haredi parties to join the coalition in recent weeks.
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The three MKs from Degel Hatorah, the non-hassidic faction of the UTJ party, had met with haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman to discuss the issue, but ultimately the party had decided that it would not join the government because of the series of laws that have been passed that have hit haredi interests, Litzman said.
“He who shed the blood of the haredi community with the law for haredi conscription, the conversion reform law, the cut in yeshiva student stipends and everything else does not deserve our trust,” said Litzman.
One haredi political source told The Jerusalem Post that the list of haredi grievances for which Shas and UTJ seek redress is now too long and complex to deal with outside of comprehensive coalition negotiations.
The cuts to government- provided yeshiva students’ stipends and the recent conversion reform law were two specific items that the haredi parties would seek to roll back before they joined any new coalition, according to the source.
A poll conducted by the TRI research and strategy institute, published on Saturday night for the haredi news website B’Hadrei Haredim, gave Shas 10 seats in the Knesset should elections be held tomorrow.
Recent polls have given Shas, which currently has 11 MKs, significantly less seats than their 2013 results, with the latest Geocartography poll for Walla News putting the party at just five seats.
Deri has consistently claimed that most polls have been conducted on the Internet and therefore underestimate Shas’s strength. The TRI poll was conducted by telephone on a sample of 500 people over the age of 18.
Despite this, most polls have consistently put United Torah Judaism on seven or eight seats, closely reflecting their current strength and previous election results.
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