UTJ to PM: We can join Center-Left parties too

United Torah Judaism warns it is open to all political avenues after upcoming elections, could join Labor coalition.

Great generic picture of Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Great generic picture of Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
United Torah Judaism warned on Tuesday that it is open to all possible political avenues after the elections and would consider joining a coalition government of the Center-Left bloc instead of the Right.
“We’re not beholden to Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu], we’re not in his hands, and we won’t automatically go with the [political] Right bloc,” a UTJ official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“There are other options and we will consider them all,” he continued.
The source also stated that after the last elections in 2009, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the spiritual leader of haredi Jewry until his death earlier this year, authorized the UTJ politicians to join a Center-Left Kadima-led coalition with Tzipi Livni at its head.
“We would consider joining with [Labor leader Shelly] Yacimovich, or [former prime minister Ehud] Olmert if he decides to run,” the official said, adding that a female prime minister was not a concern for the haredi leadership, as has been suggested in the past.
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UTJ, along with Shas, has expressed concerned over the unification deal between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, and the possible implications of the agreement on the advancement of secularist legislation through the Knesset.
During the last Knesset, Yisrael Beytenu was a chief proponent of mandatory national service for haredi yeshiva students from age 18, anathema to the haredi parties, and was the only party to actually bring a bill to the Knesset plenum for a vote.
Yisrael Beytenu also sponsored legislation for the establishment of civil marriage, and for the liberalization of the state conversion process, both of which were strongly opposed by UTJ and Shas.
The unity deal has therefore caused concern for UTJ, in that it may be surplus to requirements after the elections.
Additionally, the starting point for UTJ in any coalition negotiations will be an agreement to preserve as much as possible the previous arrangements for full-time yeshiva students prior to the expiration of the “Tal Law” in August, in which they were able to indefinitely postpone military service.
This will cause problems when negotiating with “Likud Beytenu,” although one haredi affairs commentator opined that a deal ensuring coalition discipline is not imposed on such an issue and could smooth the path in this regard.
In addition to external political concerns, UTJ’s internal squabbles have not let up, with an argument over slots on the party’s electoral list continuing to fester.
Officials in a recently formed rival party, Netzach – which is faithful to prominent haredi leader Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach – continue to insist that they will run in the coming elections regardless of the damage it might do to UTJ.
Yeshayahu Wein, an editor of the new haredi daily HaPeles and a loyalist in Auerbach’s camp, confirmed on Tuesday that the party was still committed to running, and denied that negotiations for a compromise are being conducted between the two sides.
“We’re open to peace talks up till the very last minute, although its possible the last minute might already have arrived,” he told the Post.
The establishment leadership within the Degel Hatorah party, one half of the UTJ faction, recently ejected haredi businessman Menahem Carmel from the third spot on Degel’s electoral list for his close ties to Auerbach.
Auerbach has led something of an insurgency against the recently established leadership in the haredi community of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman.
In response to Carmel’s removal from the party list, Auerbach supporters established and registered Netzach, which may draw vital votes away from UTJ and cause them to lose a seat in the Knesset, even if Netzach does not pass the electoral threshold.
Sources within the haredi political fraternity have, however, indicated that low-level talks are being conducted and that a compromise might still be possible.
Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni reportedly met with Auerbach last Thursday, although party officials claimed that it was unrelated to political matters.