UTJ insists it won’t join national unity government

UTJ chairman MK Moshe Gafni tells Bennett ‘no thanks’ in response to Yamina leader’s offer to join ‘broad emergency government’

Moshe Gafni (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Moshe Gafni
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party has rejected any participation in a national unity government between the parties of the “bloc for change” and Yamina – should one be formed – and says it will sit in the opposition if need be.
Yamina leader MK Naftali Bennett announced on Wednesday afternoon that he would seek to form a government with the centrist and left-wing parties seeking to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that he would also welcome the ultra-Orthodox parties into such a coalition.
UTJ chairman MK Moshe Gafni responded swiftly and acerbically, saying Bennett’s speech, which included an appeal for unity and progress beyond the political stalemate, could have been said “from the Right,” noting that neither side of the political divide had 61 seats to form a majority in the Knesset.
He also accused Bennett of deceit, alleging that he had always intended to join the bloc against Netanyahu.
“No one [here] is an idiot. Bennett from the first moment preferred a government with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid and not with Netanyahu,” said Gafni.
“I reject his invitation to join such a government – no thanks.”
Earlier, UTJ MK Moshe Pindrus told The Jerusalem Post that his party would not contemplate joining any government not comprised of the right-wing and religious parties.
Pindrus also rejected the idea that UTJ could join a national unity coalition in several months’ time.
Speculation has been raised about such a possibility, especially if the coalition passes legislation demanded by the High Court of Justice to increase ultra-Orthodox enlistment to the IDF. The court has ruled that the state must pass such legislation swiftly after a government is formed.
Once this thorny issue is out of the way, it would – in theory – make it easier for UTJ and Shas to join a national unity government, but Pindrus ruled this out.
“The press convinced themselves that we need a checkbook to get money and that’s what we’ll do. And they’re so convinced that they can’t believe it when they call us and we say ‘what are you guys talking about?’” said Pindrus.
“It was always based on agendas and coalitions,” he said, insisting that “we have the same policies – we have our old-fashioned policies. It’s worked for 70 years and I believe it will work for another 70 years.”