The publication of coalition agreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties is a sad moment in the life of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people, although it is hardly surprising. It will escalate Jewish disunity, and the hope is that Blue and White will keep the dam from bursting further and prevent new legislation that the ultra-Orthodox parties will demand.The agreements purport to preserve Israel’s “status quo” on religious issues, which is code for perpetuating state-empowered religious coercion, spitting at the demands for equality of the civic burden, grinding away Israel’s partnership with Diaspora Jewry, discriminating against women, and draining the public purse.Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and their partners know that this ongoing surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties is in complete betrayal of the Israeli public’s will, including that of their own voters. However, they prefer to chew away at the state’s values of civil rights and human dignity, in order to gain the political support of these fundamentalist parties, rather than forming a broad civil unity coalition, as the majority of the public desires.A huge majority of Israel’s Jewish population, as well as of the general public, wants to change this state of affairs at its very foundation, in the spirit of Blue and White’s promises to its voters, and even beyond. Not only will these hopes not be realized, but additional promises and commitments were made to the ultra-Orthodox parties (to be formulated in six months, according to the agreements).Most threatening are these parties’ demands to undo Supreme Court decisions by “override legislation.” At stake are such core issues, currently on the Court’s docket, as the Conscription Law, “Who is a Jew?” the Kotel compromise and public transportation on Saturdays.The haredi parties will also block vital and urgent actions following the state comptroller’s scathing report, released this month, according to which core curricular studies in ultra-Orthodox boys schools are but a sham. In addition to violating the law and explicit commitments they made, it puts into jeopardy Israel’s economic future, dooming the ultra-Orthodox public to perpetual poverty and dependency upon the public coffers.The coalition agreements change the support for yeshivot from “grants,” currently at the level of over a NIS 1.25 billion, to a core state budget commitment. Hiddush systematically polls the attitudes of Israeli Jews on all issues of religion and state, in comprehensive, annual and periodical surveys. Eighty percent consistently supported eliminating the budgets for yeshivot or cutting them by half or down to a quarter of the amounts received! This opposition is shared by voters of all civil parties and even by voters for the Zionist Orthodox parties. And yet, the coalition agreements do just the opposite, forcing the taxpayers to fund the yeshivot, hurting not only the public coffers, but also undermining the economy and security, to which the yeshiva students refuse to contribute.Similarly, 80% supported requiring yeshiva students to perform full or partial IDF or national service. Less than 20% accepted the ultra-Orthodox rhetoric of “Torah is his craft” as reason enough to exempt yeshiva students from sharing in the security and economic burden.Various surveys showed that over 70% of Israelis supported allowing public transportation on Shabbat, and a similar percentage supported freedom of marriage and doing away with the rabbinate’s control over marriage of all Jews in Israel; 65% supported recognition of the Jewish status of converts who converted outside the Chief Rabbinate’s auspices.These are just a few examples of the scope of the public’s disapproval of ultra-Orthodox parties control over Jewish life in Israel.NO DOUBT, Gantz is aware that some 90% of his voters expected Blue and White to finally abolish the “status quo” and promote freedom of religion and equality in Israel. The coalition agreement with Blue and White gives it a veto on legislation it finds unacceptable, and does not bind it to the “status quo.” This may be the silver lining in the challenging political new reality, even for those who oppose the party’s recent political steps.Blue and White can tip the scales in at least one major threat that confronts us, in light of the coalition agreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties, and even beyond that: saving the rule of law and the independence of the civil judiciary, by blocking demands for legislation to override Supreme Court rulings that the ultra-Orthodox oppose.The haredi politicians reasonably expect that the Court will rule against their positions on key issues in the arena of religion and state. They openly demand that the Likud commit to repeal the anticipated rulings on religious freedom and equality that promote the principles of the Declaration of Independence and democratic values.Blue and White will probably not be able to promote progressive and pluralistic legislation, but one can hope that it will at least serve as a barrier to prevent any legislation that would add to the damage done by perpetuating religious coercion and disregard for equality of the civic burden.Given this new chapter in Israel’s ongoing saga, Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel will step up its advocacy in the legal and public arena, as well as collaborate with world Jewish leaders and activists, in order to realize the vision of a Jewish and Democratic state in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.The current surrender to the dictates of the ultra-Orthodox parties will only strengthen our resolve and commitment to this critical battle, together with our partners in Israeli and Diaspora civil society. The writer heads Hiddush – Freedom of Religion for Israel.Giving United Torah Judaism, for the first time, control over the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee is the height of hypocrisy and cynicism. It views Israeli laws and civil courts as illegitimate, and now it will control the Knesset legislative process!