After talks between Likud-Beytenu and the Jewish Home party came to an abrupt end on Friday afternoon, with the top Likud-Beytenu negotiator declaring that the Jewish Home was opposed to the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the coalition, MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party slammed Jewish Home and its head, Naftali Bennett.
Gafni issued an outraged statement, saying that Bennett, an observant Jew, had “declared war on the world of Torah.”
Sources close to Bennett said Friday that, unlike the centrist Yesh Atid party, Jewish Home was not insisting on excluding any parties from the coalition. However, Jewish Home and Yesh Atid have agreed that they either enter the coalition together, or go into the opposition together.
Calling Bennett a “rookie politician,” Gafni said that “it turns out that when Bennett says [all fellow Jews are his] ‘brothers’, what he actually means is hatred of brothers and ostracism of brothers.”
Gafni said the Jewish Home head’s hatred of the ultra-Orthodox ran so deep that he was “willing to place the fate of the Land of Israel in the hands of Yesh Atid MKs and Yair Lapid, who has attacked the settlers in Judea and Samaria in the past.”
MK Meir Porush, also of the UTJ party, expressed similar sentiments, saying he couldn’t believe that “the Jewish Home people with whom we worked together to strengthen the State of Israel” had sunk so low as to make “a move that is so dangerous and so harmful to the ultra-Orthodox and the world of Torah.”
UTJ MK Yaakov Litzman, who also serves as deputy health minister, called the Jewish Home party’s perceived ostracism of the ultra-Orthodox public “contemptible behavior,” saying it disgraced the party’s leadership.
Earlier Friday, Likud-Beytenu’s chief negotiator, attorney David Shimron, alleged that Bennett’s party “wants Haredim excluded from the next coalition exactly like Yesh Atid wants them excluded.” Jewish Home representatives denied the accusations, and said a new government could be formed “within days” if Likud-Beytenu took the necessary decisions on the next government’s agenda and orientation.
As coalition talks came to a standstill, Prime Minister and Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to ask President Shimon Peres on Saturday night for another 14 days to form the next government. If Netanyahu cannot muster a majority by March 16, Peres could ask another politician to try to do so. Ultimately, if all else fails, Israel might have to hold new elections, but most analysts believe Netanyahu will yet beat the deadline.