UTJ threatens to quit coalition over mikvaot

“We will leave the coalition if court decision allowing the Reform to use mikvaot for their ceremonies is not overturned by Passover,” MK Yisrael Eichler said.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
February 29, 2016 05:05
2 minute read.
Yaakov Litzman

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party sits with other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government during a Knesset session, November 23. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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United Torah Judaism’s Council of Torah Sages will meet soon in order to decide whether to remain part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler warned in an interview with the Knesset Channel on Sunday.

Eichler said the rabbis would consider leaving the coalition if bills are not passed canceling legislation requiring secular education in haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools and to circumvent a recent ruling by the Supreme Court allowing the Reform and Conservative movements to use public mikvaot for their conversion ceremonies.

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“We will leave the coalition if court decision allowing the Reform to use mikvaot for their ceremonies is not overturned by Passover,” Eichler said. (The holiday begins on the evening of April 22.) Eichler accused Netanyahu of helping non-Orthodox religious streams because he receives “millions of dollars” in campaign contributions from American Jews who are members of them.

However, UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman told the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon over the weekend that he told Netanyahu he would like to see the current coalition last its complete term of four-and-a-half years that is set to end in November 2019.

He said a coalition of 61 Knesset members (as is currently the case), in which any MK can topple it, is ideal for his party.

Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett was quoted as saying a closed meeting of party activists at the Knesset that the current government is “as right-wing as it gets,” so he will no longer threaten to leave it.

“We learn from past mistakes,” he said.

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“I want this government to last at least four years. We will no longer fight over two homes in Hebron, we won’t leave the government, and we won’t threaten to leave.”

The most serious current threat to the coalition is thought to be Likud MK Oren Hazan, who has declared that he is no longer bound by coalition discipline. Hazan defended himself on Sunday by comparing himself to US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“I don’t have a problem with what they made me into,” Hazan told radio station 103FM . “In the United States, Donald Trump was viewed as a clown for a very long time, politicians made fun of him, the press shamed him, but he recently became the leading candidate for president of the US. So it doesn’t matter who laughs at me and who insults me.”

In the opposition, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman warned on Thursday that his party would no longer automatically back Netanyahu for prime minister.

He will co-host a rally on Monday at the Knesset about Israel’s image abroad along with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.

Lapid made a point of not inviting opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) to the event. He said he invited Liberman, because he is a former foreign minister, and not Herzog, “because he does not deal with the Foreign Ministry as much.”

Zionist Union officials said its MKs would not attend, because the head of the Knesset’s Caucus for Strengthening the Foreign Ministry, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, hosted a similar event a month ago. Shai pointed out that Herzog and diplomatic experts addressed the event but Lapid and Liberman chose not to come.

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