A weight off her mind

Exercising Netanyahu asks gym goer to ‘wait’ on judging his government

Journalist and activist recounts meeting PM-designate at training center, with him telling her not to believe reports on major concessions under coalition deals

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a morning walk, November 2, 2022, the morning after the Knesset elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a morning walk, November 2, 2022, the morning after the Knesset elections. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A journalist and activist said Saturday that incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told her during a chance gym meeting that media reports claiming he’s made significant concessions to ultra-Orthodox parties in coalition talks are “false.”

According to reported deals with ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, the incoming coalition is expected to significantly increase funding for Haredi educational institutions, back gender-segregated events, pass potentially anti-LGBT legislation, legislate a full military exemption for yeshiva students, centralize power over issues of religion and state in Haredi hands, and more.

However, Hannah Kim wrote in a tweet that Netanyahu told her “to wait two weeks, and told me not to believe the headlines that he’d capitulated to the ultra-Orthodox parties.”

Kim tweeted photos of Netanyahu doing weight training at the gym in the coastal city of Caesarea.

“It’s false, wait,” the Likud leader was quoted by Kim as saying, though he gave no further details.

Kim is a former journalist for the Ha’ir paper, Hadashot TV news, and Haaretz. She also founded the Harim School for children with autism, in the northern town of Givat Ada. She has two autistic children herself.

In another tweet, Kim wrote that Netanyahu had offered her help with the children, which she refused.

“‘I do this for other people, give me details,'” she quoted him as saying, without specifying what help was being offered. “I didn’t. I am against favoritism, I want to receive from the state what it gives everyone,” she wrote.

“‘You think that I don’t represent all Israelis?’ he asked me. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Wait, just wait,’ he said again,” Kim added.

Apparently expressing concern over potential anti-LGBT policies of the incoming coalition, Kim also asked about the desire of her gay brother, who lives abroad, to return to Israel.

“One more thing that I said… ‘My brother is gay, he lives in New York, and always fantasizes about returning. What should I tell him, to come back?'”

She said that on this matter, Netanyahu “didn’t answer, even sighed.”

Netanyahu announced Wednesday night that he had succeeded in forming a coalition with Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism, Noam, and his long-time ultra-Orthodox partners Shas and UTJ, which won 64-seats in the 120-seat Knesset in the November election.

However, full coalition deals have yet to be signed by all parties, with several outstanding issues remaining.

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