Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog received a surprising endorsement Tuesday from Shas party head Aryeh Deri, who announced that come Israel’s next elections, the ultra-Orthodox party would rally behind Herzog and back the opposition leader in his run for the premiership.
“Our mission is to bring down the government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu,” Deri said during a special opposition meeting outside the Knesset plenum. “Would that we crown you as prime minister.”
Shas and United Torah Judaism, Israel’s two ultra-Orthodox parties, have largely supported Likud-led coalitions for many years, but were kept out of the current government, which is about to pass legislation designed to increase ultra-Orthodox participation in military service.
Deri’s statements also came amid tension between the ruling coalition and opposition parties over the so-called Governance Bill, which, among other measures, raises the minimum threshold parties need to enter the Knesset.
The bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu chair and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, was approved by a 67-0 vote Tuesday with no abstentions or opposition votes, as the voting was boycotted by opposition MKs, who claimed the bill deliberately targets minority parties.
The bill raises the minimum threshold for a party to enter the Knesset to 3.25 percent of total votes, as opposed to the previous 2%. This is seen by analysts as having a devastating effect on the three Arab parties, none of which would have cleared the 3.25% threshold if it had applied in the last elections.
The bill also freezes the maximum number of government ministers at 18, and makes it more difficult for Knesset members to succeed in a vote of no-confidence, which is used to bring down a government and call new elections.
Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.