Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday called to curb the political influence of the ultra-Orthodox, angering Haredi lawmakers.
“I am happy there are Haredim, but we need to limit their political sway,” Bennett said at the Jerusalem Post Conference at the Museum of Tolerance in downtown Jerusalem.
He included the ultra-Orthodox as one of three main elements in Israel’s political arena, along with the nationalistic right and humanistic left.
Bennett, who is Orthodox, explained that all three political camps are “needed,” and that he “wouldn’t want an Israel without the religious aspect, because we are the Jewish state.”
“I wouldn’t want an Israel without a left-wing. While clearly, I feel differently on many issues, I am happy there is that counter so that we can debate it,” he added.
Bennett’s broad-based coalition does not include either main ultra-Orthodox party, leaving them in the opposition alongside the Likud party and pitting them against Bennett’s government.
United Torah Judaism party leader Moshe Gafni said Bennett’s comment was “not surprising.”
“This is the same man who blatantly lies on topics that interest him at that moment. It is not surprising that Bennett also knows that he will not need us anymore, because this is his last term in the political system,” Gafni added.
MK Yaakov Litzman of UTJ said: “When he needed ‘Haredi influence,’ he knew how to beg for it.”
“An illegitimate prime minister with six seats, who is barely scratching the electoral threshold in all the polls and represents only himself, wants to limit the influence of Haredim who represent a million people,” Shas leader Aryeh Deri tweeted, referring to the small showing at the polls for Bennett’s Yamina party.
“Bennett, every fraud has an end. The day will come in which a government that represents the will of the people will rise, including the Haredi community that received 16 seats in the last election,” Deri added.
Both UTJ and Shas have signed on to Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s loyalty pledge, agreeing that they will not independently join a government led by any party other than Likud after the March election.
However, Bennett, as well as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, have both previously insisted that they have not shut the door on a coalition with the Haredi parties down the road.
But Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman was reported to have said that his party would not accept being part of a government with the two ultra-Orthodox parties.
Tuesday’s conference, titled “The Future is Now,” featured senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, alongside past United States officials, such as former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin.