Elyashiv okays attempt to reunite Degel, Aguda

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the supreme Ashkenazi haredi halachic authority, gave Degel Hatorah a "green light" Tuesday to begin negotiations to reunite with Agudat Yisrael. "The rabbi's order was tentative because it depends on the agreement of the other rabbis in the council of Torah sages," said a Degel source. The same source said that Degel would not make too many concessions in order to merge with Aguda. "We estimate that Degel on its own can muster the minimum number of votes needed to enter the Knesset," said Degel MK Moshe Gafni on Monday. However, many haredi political sources doubted Degel would succeed without hooking up to another party. Although Degel and Shas have discussed joining in a united list, Shas leaders are afraid such a move would turn away Shas's non-haredi constituents. The primary obstacle preventing the reunion of Degel and Aguda is MK Ya'acov Litzman, who insists on receiving from Degel an apology to the Gerer Rebbe, Litzman's rebbe and head of Israel's largest hassidic sect. Litzman said that the split between the parties was caused by a lack of respect for the Gerer Rebbe's opinion on United Torah Judaism's political tactics when the two parties joined Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government at the beginning of the year.