United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said Saturday that anti-government protesters are waging a “religious war,” days after scuffles between religious and secular Israelis in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur.
“You are not referring to judicial reform or anything of the sort. You are waging a religious war against us… What we saw on Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv is proof,” Gafni said, addressing a UTJ event in Kibbutz Hafetz Haim in central Israel.
Last Sunday, a religious organization attempted to hold a public Yom Kippur prayer service in the heart of Tel Aviv with an improvised gender divider — after the High Court had backed up a municipal order forbidding the separation of the sexes in a public location — sparking bitter confrontations between attendees and protesters, and unprecedented scenes of recrimination on the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Gafni claimed opponents of the segregated service sought to pull off the prayer shawls of the Orthodox worshipers. It was not clear what incident he was referring to, as there have been no public reports of such conduct.
The ultra-Orthodox lawmaker later discussed the state of the economy, insisting that it is doing well, despite warnings from experts who said the government’s judicial overhaul would have major negative financial implications.
“Quite a long time has passed since [those warnings] and the economy is excellent,” Gafni said. “The high-tech, the deficit and the government’s expenditures and revenues. Nothing has changed.”
Figures released by the Finance Ministry earlier this month told a different story, showing the fiscal deficit widening to 1.3 percent of the GDP — or NIS 23.1 billion ($6 billion) — in August over the prior 12 months, as state revenue from taxes continued to slide and government expenditure increased.
The deficit has swelled above the government’s target for this year of around 1.1%. In recent months, economists have been warning that the country will find it challenging to meet the target for this year amid expectations for a continued decline in income from taxes as the global economy is facing a slowdown and higher borrowing costs are hampering the pace of real estate deals.
Adding to this is concern that uncertainty over the judicial overhaul will stifle foreign investment and hamper local economic activity.
Investment in Israeli high-tech startups and companies dropped by 38% in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2022, according to a report released earlier this week.
Sharon Wrobel contributed to this report