Ultra-Orthodox parties rule out joining a government that includes Lapid

The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties rule out joining a government with centrist leader Yair Lapid and throw their full backing behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The parties make the announcement following a meeting between Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads Shas, and UTJ leader Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

“We won’t hold negotiations or conversations on a coalition that includes Yair Lapid under any situation,” they say in a joint statement after their talks at Deri’s office.

Lapid is No. 2 in the Blue and White faction, an alliance of his Yesh Atid party and former military chief Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience. Since entering politics, Lapid has pushed for ending exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students and requiring the teaching of core subjects at ultra-Orthodox schools.

“We will continue with all our strength to firmly support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and not Gantz,” Deri and Litzman say.

Though Blue and White is currently polling as the largest party, it would likely struggle to form a government without some of Netanyahu’s current right-wing and religious coalition partners.

The Shas and UTJ heads also agree to work together in the upcoming election campaign to boost the ultra-Orthodox when Israelis go to the polls on April 9.

“We will join as a single bloc and joint alliance only a coalition that Netanyahu forms and we’ll be strong by his side,” they say.

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