Ya'acov Litzman, the deputy health minister.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
United Torah Judaism’s Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman accepted the position of health minister offered to him by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday after the ultra-Orthodox party’s Council of Torah Sages decided to permit the move.
UTJ traditionally has not allowed any of its MKs to be officials, in order that it not be seen as party to or responsible for government decisions the party believes run counter to Jewish law. But the rabbis permitted Litzman to join the cabinet after the High Court of Justice ruled that there cannot be any “deputy ministers with the status of a minister,” which was how Litzman was described.
The practice began in 1952 when the Religious Torah Front that represented haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) at the time decided it did not want to share collective responsibility for government decisions that went against Jewish law.
After the 1951 election, MK Yitzhak Meir Levin joined prime minister David Ben-Gurion’s government as minister of welfare. But he resigned in 1952 to protest the National Service Law for Women that required them to serve in the IDF.
Litzman said on Thursday that he accepted the decision of the Council of Torah Sages and the prime minister’s request to serve as health minister.
“I respect the decision of the court,” Litzman said. “From my standpoint my job will not change at all. I will continue to serve the citizens of Israel, just as I did before today, and advance the health needs of the people.”
The High Court’s decision came about following a petition by Yesh Atid. On a visit to the Aleh charity, Litzman mocked Yesh Atid for enabling him to become a minister.
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“Yesh Atid has not accomplished anything on the economy or on security,” he said. “Their only victory is the High Court decision about me.”
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