Members of Likud have reportedly turned to prominent rabbis in the settler community and asked them to rule that anyone enlisted as a member of the party is obligated to vote for it in the elections next week.
According to a report in the Hebrew daily Maariv, the request came amid indications that a significant portion of the settler community had joined the party to influence its primary results and shift its Knesset slate to the right — even though they fully intend to vote for other parties, and especially Naftali Bennett’s ascendent Jewish Home.
The rabbis reportedly refused to issue such a decree, but agreed that it was wrong to enlist as a member in a party and then vote for a competing slate in the elections. Rabbi Dov Lior, the rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba who is identified with a few of Jewish Home’s more hard-line candidates, was quoted as saying that there was “a moral flaw” in such behavior. Shlomo Aviner, another prominent rabbinical figure who is identified with Jewish Home, reportedly said it was “problematic.”
In the wake of the 2009 elections, it became apparent that a sizeable number of voters leaning more to the right than Likud’s traditional party line were involved in the party’s internal politics, promoting candidates such as Moshe Feiglin. Public data regarding the number of settlers who were members of the party in certain settlements and the numbers of actual votes the party received in the elections in the same locales indicated that many Likud members had voted for competing parties.
Beyond the religious ruling, there was also a moral issue at stake, said Shevah Stern, a Likud activist from the West Bank.
“In small towns like the settlements people see who you vote for,” he told the paper.
Last week, Ma’ariv reported that Likud had threatened to “play rough” with the settlers and convey the message that if they fail to vote for Likud-Beytenu in the elections, the consequences for the entire settler movement could be grave. The report comes amid polls that show a mass migration of former Likud voters to the Jewish Home party.