Haredi press, politicians lash out at Bayit Yehudi

Concerned about voter defection to national religious party, haredi leaders mull fighting against Bayit Yehudi's political encroachment.

Moshe Gafni
Senior haredi MK Moshe Gafni and the largest selling haredi daily Yated Neeman issued fierce criticism of Bayit Yehudi and its policies toward the haredi sector.
Over the past two days the criticism has come against a background of internal division in the haredi community, both in the Ashkenazi and Sephardi sectors, and increasing efforts by the two mainstream haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, to prevent their voters defecting to other parties.
Yated Neeman, the mouthpiece of the Degel HaTorah party, a constituent of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction to which Gafni belongs, unleashed harsh criticism of Bayit Yehudi in its Thursday editorial.
It said that national-religious Bayit Yehudi was no longer a religious party, that it was welcoming secular candidates for its primary elections as well as non-Jews, and that Bayit Yehudi was seeking voters from the secular public as well as the “religious-lite,” who it described as being lax in their observance of Jewish law.
“This is not strange, since the heads of the party do not at all intend [Bayit Yehudi] be a religious party, but simply want to construct an [electoral] list that will simply be the Likud 2 and will compete with Likud for voters,” Yated’s editorial claimed.
“Bayit Yehudi has been part of the [current] iniquitous government from the beginning. It’s leaders assisted the injury to the haredi community, especially to those who study Torah,” it continued, concluding by warning that the growing strength of Bayit Yehudi threated the haredi world even more.
And on Wednesday, Gafni wrote a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming that two Bayit Yehudi- controlled ministries were discriminating against haredim and said that the haredi parties would have to take these policies into consideration when deciding which political bloc to back after the coming elections.
Gafni complained that criteria being drawn up by the Pensioner Affairs Ministry, headed by Bayit Yehudi Minister Uri Orbach, provide support for institutions caring for the elderly that have enrichment centers dealing with Jewish-Zionist heritage.
The MK said that the support for such institutions inherently discriminated against haredi care homes, and noted the conditions for receiving funds from the ministry included men and women learning together at such centers, which he said would again discriminate against haredim since men and women do not study together in haredi society.
Gafni claimed that the Religious Services Ministry, headed by deputy-minister Eli Ben-Dahan also of Bayit Yehudi, had drafted terms of financial support for public institutions requiring the services of a rabbi that stipulate a prerequisite of having performed military service.
“The implication is that in every community in which a national-religious and a haredi rabbi apply for a job, the national- religious rabbi will be chosen and haredi rabbis will be wiped out, there won’t be haredi rabbis any more in communities in the State of Israel,” Gafni argued.
“All this has been done when the Yesh Atid party headed by Yair Lapid is not part of the coalition, proving that the decrees against the haredi community were made by the people of Bayit Yehudi,” he continued.
“Haredi Judaism will be forced to weigh whether or not there is a basis for partnership with Bayit Yehudi, which is never satiated by its appropriation of public funds from, and continuing injury to the haredi sector.”
Bayit Yehudi officials declined to comment on Gafni’s allegations on the record.
One Bayit Yehudi official said, however, that UTJ was in danger of losing votes to the national-religious party and that the haredi political system needed to attack the party to try and prevent such a phenomenon.
“The only way for Gafni to shore up votes is to attack Bayit Yehudi and I understand that is what he has to do, even though we worked well during the Knesset,” the official said.