(photo credit: YOEL LEVI)
Chairman of the United Torah Judaism Party and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said on Thursday that his party would not stay in a government that recognizes the Reform and Conservative movements.
Speaking on Reshet Bet radio, Litzman speculated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would choose his political alliance with the haredi parties in Israel over the state’s relationship with the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations abroad.
“I assume that the prime minister and the coalition prefer haredim in Israel over Reform in the Diaspora,” the minister said. “The Reform don’t know what mikvaot are. They are jacuzzis for them,” he said, in reference to the legislation approved on Wednesday for its preliminary reading in the Knesset that would circumvent a liberal court ruling permitting universal mikve use.
Litzman added that UTJ is adamant about advancing the bill through the legislative process until it is passed into law.
“The prime minister is obligated to find a solution to [preserve] the status quo. He is signed on this, and therefore I demand that he fixes this,” he said.
Asked about the ongoing crisis over the agreement between the government and the non-Orthodox movements to create a pluralist prayer area at the southern end of the Western Wall, Litzman said, “We will not sit in a government that recognizes the Reform. This is an instruction from the Council of Torah Sages.”
The minister was hesitant, however, to say whether the deal to create the pluralist prayer space constituted state recognition of the non-Orthodox movements that would require UTJ to quit the coalition.
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Calling Reform Judaism “counterfeit,” Litzman criticized Reform acceptance of intermarriage. He specifically pointed to the marriage of Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US president Bill Clinton and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to Marc Mezvinsky.
“There was a priest and a Reform rabbi there. This is not Judaism, God forbid. This is forgery of Judaism, and we don’t want them to take control in the state.”
Earlier this week, a source close to the coalition leadership said that they did not see any real danger that the haredi parties would topple the government over the Western Wall agreement, because the options before and after the elections would be the same, and possibly worse given the strong polling position of Yesh Atid.
The source said that UTJ and Shas were shocked at what had happened during the previous government when they were not in the coalition, in which Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid passed a law for haredi military conscription, slashed haredi budgets, and advanced other measures opposed by the religious parties.
The official noted, however, that no one in the coalition wants to test the haredi leadership too far and risk going to new elections, adding despite this that no alternative to the Western Wall agreement is currently being considered by the government.
Yizhar Hess, director of the Masorti (Conservative Movement in Israel) condemned Litzman’s words denigrating non-Orthodox Judaism saying “If ministers in the prime minister’s cabinet spit in the faces of other Jews then he must find right way to act in the most firm way possible.”
Hess also addressed the delay to the implementation of the Western Wall agreement and the mikve legislation, saying that the issues were a severe threat to relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.
“Both the Western Wall agreement, if it is not implemented, and the mikve law, if it is passed, have by themselves the potential to create a dramatic crisis between world Jewry and Israel,” he said.
“If both these outcomes occur, it is unthinkable what could happen.
“A month ago after the agreement was signed, many Jews in the Diaspora felt that Israel is now becoming their home too. The situation at the moment is not only unhealthy, it’s a strategic threat to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
Hess said, however, that he believed the prime minister to be “doing the utmost to solve these issue.
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