UTJ weighs backing aggressive peace agenda

The move is likely a ploy by the ultra-Orthodox party to pressure Bayit Yehudi into scaling back rhetoric on haredi enlistment.

MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
United Torah Judaism is currently considering whether or not to support an aggressive peace agenda, sources within the party told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The move is likely a ploy by the ultra-Orthodox party to pressure the Bayit Yehudi party and its leader Naftali Bennett into scaling back its rhetoric on the issue of haredi enlistment.
During his inaugural Knesset speech last week, Bennett called on haredim (ultra- Orthodox) to enlist, stating that military service was a religious obligation and that the ultra-Orthodox community must share the state’s economic and military burdens.
A UTJ official told the Post that the party was considering supporting a raft of measures such as a settlement freeze, the evacuation of unauthorized settlement outposts and the reopening of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Such a move, he said, would allow the prime minister to form a coalition with left leaning parties including The Tzipi Livni Party and even Meretz, and leave Bayit Yehudi outside of the government.
The source noted that the upcoming visit of US President Barak Obama would likely bring new pressure from the White House to make concessions to the Palestinians, something that his party is now considering supporting.
The UTJ official said that the preservation of military service exemptions for haredi yeshiva students was the single most important issue on the party’s agenda and that UTJ would be willing to compromise on other issues in order to maintain the status quo on haredi enlistment.
“The haredi public thinks that Bennett has gone to war against them,” the UTJ official said. “We want to remind him that Netanyahu can build a coalition without Bayit Yehudi and remind the national religious community that Bennett ran a campaign on strengthening the national bloc and the settlements, not on forming agreements with Yesh Atid.”
According to the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, 17% of voters in their region gave their support to the United Torah Judaism, as opposed to Shas, which garnered only 10% of their vote.
UTJ did particularly well in the two largest West Bank settlements, Modin Illit and Beitar Illit, where more people voted for them than any other party.
The Council calculates that 25,108 people voted for UTJ in Judea and Samaria, which means that almost one of the party's seven mandates comes from that region.
Council spokesman Yigal Delmonti said in response that those in UTJ who would support a freeze does not represent the population that voted for them, because such a vote would only harm the religious communities and their many supporters in Judea and Samaria.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.