Deal or no deal? Labor-haredi cooperation raises suspicions

Shas, UTJ MKs hail Herzog, hope to "anoint him as the next PM," while opposition leader denies making an agreement with them.

Herzog and Deri (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Herzog and Deri
Haredi MKs fed the flames of rumors Tuesday they had cut a deal with opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) to support him as the next prime minister if he votes against haredi conscription, while Herzog’s response remained vague.
“[Herzog] successfully united the opposition, and I wish him continuing success. He is the alternative to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu,” Shas chairman Arye Deri said.
Deri went further, saying that his goal is “to anoint [Herzog] as prime minister.”
United Torah Judaism head Ya’acov Litzman said “the best thing [Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who is the finance minister, and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is the economy minister] did is cause a rift between us [the haredim] and Netanyahu.”
“There is no chance we’ll return to the Likud’s arms,” Litzman said. “The thing that Netanyahu did, criminal sanctions [on those who refuse to enlist in the military] – there’s no way back from that.”
A spokesman for Herzog unequivocally denied that there is a deal with the haredi parties, saying that the opposition leader called for haredim to enlist in the IDF.
While Herzog in his speech to the opposition’s “alternative plenum” said he and “every Israeli citizen have to serve in the army or find a social alternative,” the rest of his comments on the matter slammed the conscription bill and the coalition for trying to provoke the ultra-Orthodox.
Herzog did not refer explicitly to reports of an agreement, but many in the coalition criticized him for at least theoretically making one.
“It’s the end of days, the opposition is coalescing. [Shas MK] Nissim Ze’ev is together with [United Arab List-Ta’al MK] Ahmed Tibi, Litzman with [Balad MK Jamal] Zahalka. It’s messianic times,” Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach of Bayit Yehudi quipped. “Deri is praising Herzog and hopes he’ll be prime minister, and Herzog is giving in to the flattery.”
A source close to Yesh Atid leader Lapid said: “Herzog is an experienced man. You would think he’d know how it looks to his voters that he became Deri’s lapdog. It’s clear that if Labor voters support the [haredi conscription] bill even more than Yesh Atid voters, because we have religious people in our party.”
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah criticized the opposition’s “hypocrisy and double-speak,” pointing out that in the Shaked Committee on haredi conscription, “Labor representatives didn’t vote for mandatory enlistment... just as today Labor is avoiding voting... They found ways to run away from making decisions. All the bills [on governance, the haredi draft, and a referendum on giving up land to which Israeli law applies] will pass in the end, but the opposition leader can tell Deri and Litzman that he didn’t help.”
MK David Rotem (Likud Beytenu) said that while the opposition cries about democracy, it is already working on its coalition for after the next national election.
“That’s what interests [Herzog]. Not democracy, not electoral reform. When the opposition knew they didn’t have real arguments against the bills, the only thing that interested [Labor] was making the haredim like them. When they heard that whoever votes for haredi conscription won’t get haredi support, they decided not to come to the vote,” Rotem said.