UTJ seeking ‘only to preserve status quo’ after election, says MK

New MK Yitzhak Pindrus says that UTJ ‘doesn’t take Liberman seriously’ in wake of Yisrael Beytenu leaders’ fierce attacks on the haredi political parties.

July 1, 2019 07:40
3 minute read.
Deputy Mayor Itzhak Pindrus

Deputy Mayor Itzhak Pindrus. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The main campaign issue and policy goal of United Torah Judaism is to preserve the status quo on religion and state, MK Yitzhak Pindrus said on Sunday, rejecting claims that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties are seeking to increase the role of religion in public life.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Pindrus said that UTJ was not concerned with the wave of political attacks aimed at the party by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, and said the party could theoretically sit with Blue and White – although he described such an eventuality as unlikely.

“One of main goals is ensure that the rights of the haredi community are preserved,” Pindrus said on Sunday.

“We’re not trying to the change the status quo, we’re trying to leave it the way it was,” he continued, saying this was despite the increasing number of religious people in the country.

Pindrus also alleged that it is secular activists and parties that are trying to change the status quo to their benefit, and not the reverse.

The status quo on religion and state was an agreement between the Zionist establishment and the old, ultra-Orthodox community of Mandate Palestine relating to Shabbat, kashrut in state agencies, Jewish personal status issues and education systems, which has been the basis of relations on these key religion and state issues since the state was established.

Asked if, after 71 years, the status quo might be outdated for many Israelis, Pindrus responded that for religious citizens, it was still an important platform and one that they did not wish to be contravened.

“We really think there has to be some kind of code as how to live together,” the MK said. “That agreement was done 70 years ago and we think it should be preserved.”

Asked about the ongoing political attacks by Liberman against the haredi parties, Pindrus was dismissive and said Liberman’s comments were essentially empty words designed to increase Yisrael Beytenu’s number of seats in the upcoming election.

“He campaigned for a loyalty bill for citizenship, but he never passed a law,” said Pindrus, who began sounding off a list of Liberman’s supposed failures. “He promised that [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh would be dead within 48 hours if he was made defense minister and he’s still alive; he promised a law on conversion but never did anything; he promised he would take care of Gaza when he becomes minister of defense but we didn’t see any negotiations he did with Netanyahu on that.

“We don’t take him seriously, we take him as a person who needs votes and who wants to be in power, but there’s no meaning to what he says,” Pindrus said, adding that UTJ had “no reason to help him” by responding to his attacks.

Asked if in an eventuality whereby Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again gets the first opportunity to form a coalition but fails again, UTJ would join a coalition led by Blue and White, Pindrus was evasive, saying he felt the situation and the requisite electoral math was unlikely.

“I have no idea what Blue and White is about,” he said. “I don’t know if they are capitalists, if they are Right or Left. What are they? If we knew what they are, I could tell you if we’ll sit with them or not.”

Pindrus said, generally speaking, the haredi parties see the political Left as “less connected to our roots and history,” but that “if that changes, and if [Blue and White leader Benny] Gantz is representing religious or traditional people, so anything could happen.”

He again made light of this possibility however, quipping, “Maybe [Blue and White co-chairman Yair] Lapid could run to be chief rabbi.”

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