Haredi lawmakers deny approving deal with PM

Gafni: How can he rely on us when he hasn’t supported us?

Moshe Gafni
Haredi MKs continued to deny on Monday that United Torah Judaism had agreed to any deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back him as prime minister after the next elections.
A report in Ma’ariv on Monday stated that the prime minister had made various promises to Shas and UTJ, which had in turn agreed to recommend him to President Reuven Rivlin to form a coalition after the next elections.
However, several haredi sources denied that any such deal had been agreed. They said that their terms for backing Netanyahu required serious negotiations, which cannot be held during a sitting government.
“Talk about agreements and guarantees of support are not serious,” UTJ MK Uri Maklev told The Jerusalem Post. “Such agreements can be worked out only through negotiations after elections,” he insisted.
“What would happen if we said we’re going to support him and during the negotiations promises aren’t fulfilled? We won’t support him as prime minister if our requirements aren’t met, so why would we make such promises?” Maklev said.
Both Shas and UTJ fiercely opposed the law for haredi conscription that was passed, as well as the recent reform to the conversion process, budget cuts to yeshiva stipends, and other measures that have affected the haredi community.
They are likely to demand the repeal or moderation of some of these laws in return for entering the next government.
Maklev said, however, that the “glue that kept this coalition together has crumbled away,” and warned Netanyahu against attempting to prolong the life of what he described as a “dysfunctional government,” in a manner similar to the brief coalition formed in mid-2012 between the Likud and Kadima parties which fell apart a few months later.
Senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni described the report as “one big bluff,” telling the Post that “there are no guarantees and no promises.”
He questioned why the haredi parties would make such a commitment to Netanyahu, in light of the laws passed by the current government that have harmed haredi interests.
“Why should the prime minister be able to rely on us, when he has not supported us this past year-and-a-half?” asked Gafni.
On Sunday, the spiritual leader of the non-hassidic haredi sector, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, told UTJ MKs Gafni, Maklev and Yaakov Asher to commit to not joining an alternative government without Likud, but that they should not guarantee to recommend Netanyahu to form a government after the next elections.