UTJ decides to run again as unified party

Shas submits candidates list.

Just ahead of the midnight deadline on Sunday, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael decided to run together again as United Torah Judaism in February's election. It was also decided that MK Ya'acov Litzman would continue as chairman of UTJ. A new name, Rabbi Dov Landau, a Ger Hassidic Yeshiva head and senior kosher supervisor, had been mentioned as a candidate to lead Agudat Yisrael if it opted not to run with Degel, or to lead UTJ if Litzman did not run. UTJ candidates for Knesset are: Litzman (Agudah), followed by MK Moshe Gafni (Degel), MK Meir Porush (Agudah), MK Uri Maklev (Degel), Menahem Eliezer Moses (Agudah), a Viznitz Hassid, Israeli Eichler (Agudah), a Belz Hassid, and Menahem Carmel (Degel). If the UTJ does not receive six seats, Eichler will rotate with Porush. Meanwhile, Shas's Council of Sages met early Sunday at the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in the capital and agreed on the list for the 18th Knesset. The No. 1 slot was reserved for Shas Chairman Eli Yishai. Communications Minister Ariel Attias, who was ranked fifth in the last election in 2006, was advanced to the No. 2 slot. Attias enjoys a close relationship with Shas spiritual mentor Yosef and his son David Yosef and daughter-in-law. Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen, formerly No. 2 on the list, was lowered to No. 3, followed by MKs Amnon Cohen and Meshulam Nahari. MK Ya'acov Margi, head of the Shas Knesset faction, was promoted from No. 10 to No. 6. Margi is expected to receive a portfolio if Shas joins the government after the election, Shas sources said. MK David Azoulay was ranked seventh followed by MKs Yitzhak Vaknin, Nissim Ze'ev, Haim Amsalem and Avraham Michaeli. The No. 12 slot was reserved for MK Mazor Bayana, rabbi of an Ethiopian community of 10,000 in Beersheba. Former MK Shlomo Ben-Izri, who was convicted of convicted of bribery, conspiring to commit a crime and obstruction of justice in April, was not placed on Shas's list. Ovadia Yosef, 88, who is suffering from back pain, did not meet with reporters after the list was announced. He also did not give his weekly Saturday night lecture, which is relayed by satellite to thousands of households. His son David lectured instead. In contrast to Shas, which delivered its list to the Central Elections Committee well before the midnight deadline, Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah waited till the last minute. Earlier on Sunday evening, the sides had agreed to put off a decision regarding which party - Degel or Agudah - would receive the first portfolio or Knesset committee chair offered to the UTJ if it joined the government coalition. Degel Hatorah originally demanded that Gafni, who became the party's head after the resignation of Avraham Ravitz, receive the No. 1 slot in the united list. Degel also demanded that Litzman be replaced. Litzman, who has been in the Knesset since 1999, had expressed a desire to resign. However, the head of Litzman's Ger Hassidic sect, Rabbi Ya'acov Alter, requested that Litzman stay on. In the end, he did.