Partially leaked Likud-UTJ deal not likely to impact negotiations - UTJ

The list of demands was likely leaked by one of the sides in order to force the other to make concessions, although the source and motives remain unclear.

 LIKUD LEADER BENJAMIN Netanyahu shakes hands with United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Goldknopf in the Knesset last week. If Netanyahu’s promise of a full budget for all haredi educational institutions is realized, the already-low incentive to provide core studies will disappear entirely. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
LIKUD LEADER BENJAMIN Netanyahu shakes hands with United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Goldknopf in the Knesset last week. If Netanyahu’s promise of a full budget for all haredi educational institutions is realized, the already-low incentive to provide core studies will disappear entirely.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The list of demands by the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Party United Torah Judaism that the Likud reportedly agreed to as part of coalition negotiations – which were revealed on Channel 12 on Monday night – were partial, declarative and mostly existed in previous agreements and therefore will not affect the negotiations, a source from UTJ said on Tuesday.

The list of demands was likely leaked by one of the sides in order to force the other to make concessions, although the source and motives remain unclear.

According to the report, Netanyahu had agreed to halt electricity generation across Israel on Shabbat; include a member of the Chief Rabbinate on the committee that approves infrastructure work on the Sabbath; allow any citizen who requests it to be buried in the ground and not in a multi-tiered grave; increase the number of gender segregated beaches; establish a governmental body dedicated to answering halachic (Jewish legal) questions; fund a national genizah (repository for unusable holy books); cancel the matriculation reform that inserted projects instead of examinations in the humanities, including Jewish subjects; “teach more Torah to secular students” and many more.

The agreement began with the statement “United Torah Judaism expresses its anxiety over the state’s Jewish character due to the growing loopholes in commercial activity on Shabbat and on Jewish holidays. The Likud and its leader will examine UTJ’s claims on this matter, and its demands for action on this issue.”

Opposition MKs charged that the agreements were in violation of the status quo, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid saying Netanyahu was “leading us into becoming a halachic state.”

 United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf is seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, July 28, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf is seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, July 28, 2022 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Likud released a statement denying that the agreement had been finalized, stating that it was merely a list of UTJ’s demands in the negotiations, and that Netanyahu has not agreed to enact all the reported changes. The Likud’s statement specifically cited the electricity clause as one of the issues it disagrees with.

The Likud stressed that “any final agreement will maintain the status quo on matters of religion and state.”

What were Likud's disagreements with UTJ's coalition demands?

The full text of the electricity clause, which was published on Tuesday, states that “the government will work to resolve the desecration of the Sabbath in the production of electricity, including by encouraging local storage. To this end, a committee will be established headed by the Energy Minister’s director general, which will include professional bodies such as the Shabbat Energy Institute and the Halacha Scientific and Technological Institute.”

Far from barring electricity production on the Sabbath, the idea of “local storage” is to create specialized energy sources for haredi neighborhoods, some of which currently use generators on Shabbat that are unsafe and pollutive. The initiative has already been tendered in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Lod and likely will not affect secular citizens, according to the UTJ source.

The clause regarding burial plots was equally misleading, the source said. The Channel 12 report left out a caveat that additional plots will only be opened in “peripheral areas, and areas where the public is interested in such burial.” The reality on the ground will not change drastically, and the country will not be overrun by graveyards as some claimed, the source said.

Both the electricity and burial clauses were thus mostly declarative. Others, such as the demand to cancel outgoing Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel’s kosher cellphone reform, were already well documented.

The agreements are thus best judged not by partial leaks but by their final formulations, which will be presented to the public, the source concluded.