(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said Monday his party would not remain in a government that recognizes the Reform Movement.
Deri’s comments are the latest in a series of threats to the coalition by haredi political parties following an agreement signed between the government and non-Orthodox movements to create a pluralist prayer space at the Western Wall.
“We won’t sit in a government that recognizes the Reform, not over the Western Wall, not for marriage and not for divorce,” Deri said in a Channel 2 interview Monday, using “Reform” as a catchall for non-Orthodox denominations.
Deri noted that he voted against the plan for the non-Orthodox prayer space in the cabinet vote, as did the two other haredi cabinet ministers, and said he would fight against implementing the agreement.
“It’s not acceptable that the government makes these kind of decisions,” he said.
Deri – along with United Torah Judaism leaders Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni – was aware of the details of the deal before it was approved for a cabinet vote.
Although they voted against it, the party heads decided not to leave the coalition over the agreement to recognize the prayer rights of non-Orthodox Jews.
Since the plan was approved, however, Shas and UTJ have come under fire from ultra-Orthodox media outlets and several prominent haredi rabbis, including Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Earlier Monday, Rabbi Ben-Tzion Mutzafi, a renowned firebrand and leading haredi Sephardi figure, denounced the haredi political leadership as “idiots” for acquiescing to the establishment of the non-Orthodox prayer section.
“These idiots, the politicians, give to [the non-Orthodox],” the rabbi was quoted as saying by the haredi new website Kikar Shabbat. “I’m talking about the politicians who call themselves haredi, they have peyot and beards and tefillin.
Don’t believe them!” Last week, UTJ declared that it would not support any government legislation unless the Western Wall agreement was revoked.
UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler said, however, that the party would fight against the deal from within the government.
“We will not quit,” Eichler told The Jerusalem Post.
“We will not give the Reform [Movement] this pleasure. They want us to quit, but we will stay inside [the government] and protect the holiness of the Western Wall.”