Hardline national-religious rabbis come out in support of Yishai’s new party

The rabbis said he new party would bring together “rabbis who love Torah and the Land of Israel, who will raise up the banner of Torah in our lives, in the Land of Israel and in the State of Israel."

Yahad Ha’am Itanu (photo credit: YAHAD HA'AM ITANU)
Yahad Ha’am Itanu
(photo credit: YAHAD HA'AM ITANU)
Renegade Shas MK Eli Yishai’s new Yahad Ha’am Itanu party was left high and dry on Saturday night when the right-wing national religious Tekuma party voted to stay with Bayit Yehudi instead of joining the new faction.
But two senior rabbis from the conservative sector of the national-religious community, and formally associated with Tekuma, Rabbis Dov Lior and Elyakim Levanon, have stepped across communal lines and endorsed the new party.
Lior, who until recently served as the municipal chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, is highly respected in the hard-line wing of the national religious community, as is Levanon, who serves as the rabbi of the Samaria district.
Lior and Levanon wrote a letter on Friday to haredi Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Yishai’s spiritual patron, “to support the glory of the Torah and to express to the honorable rabbi our support for the establishment of the new [political] movement,” Yahad Ha’am Itanu.
The letter was made public on Sunday.
The two rabbis said that the new party would bring together “rabbis who love Torah and the Land of Israel, who will raise up the banner of Torah in our lives, in the Land of Israel and in the State of Israel.”
The letter continues, “The men of deeds who will be our representatives will include those who are honest and who listen to the voice of Torah,” Lior and Levanon wrote.
“We see Eli Yishai as a senior partner in this process and support you in this process,” they concluded.
Sources close to Yishai said Lior was expected to meet with Yishai either Sunday night or in the coming days, and confirm his support for the party.
Yishai had been hoping to unite Tekuma with his new party, and was encouraged by the fact that its chairman, Construction Minister MK Uri Ariel, was strongly in favor of joining him, as was Lior, a senior figure in the hard-line national-religious community.
But the decision by the 110 members of the Tekuma central committee to stay with Bayit Yehudi left Yahad Ha’am Itanu without the strong, established political ally that Yishai thought might bolster his chances to cross the electoral threshold in the coming election.
The party tried to put a brave face on Tekuma’s decision, with MK Yoni Chetboun, who recently quit Bayit Yehudi to join Yahad Ha’am Itanu, saying that the party respected the decision but was not especially troubled by it.
“We’re going forward with full force, national-religious, haredim, and traditional together, and the people are with us,” said Chetboun.
“The people want to bear with pride the values of the Torah and Israel’s heritage, the people want welfare for the weak sectors of society, this is our message, and we will take it forward into the elections. In three months’ time, it will be clear to everyone that Yahad Ha’am Itanu will be the surprise of the elections,” he said.
The party will now be hoping that the endorsement by Lior and Levanon, and the possibility of further such endorsements from other rabbis in the hard-line national- religous community, will increase its support from the sector, and strengthen its credentials as a party that crosses communal lines and is able to draw right-wing voters from various parts of the population.
Lior wields significant influence in the religiously conservative sector of the national-religious community, although the rejection by the Tekuma central committee may be seen as a blow to his prestige and his authority.
He has been outspoken about attempts to loosen the grip of the chief rabbinate over religious choices and reform of the provision of religious services, and strongly urged Tekuma to leave Bayit Yehudi.
Although often referred to as one of the “Tekuma rabbis,” in the 2013 elections Lior actually endorsed Otzma L’Yisrael, a far-right nationalist party led by former MK Michael Ben-Ari.