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UTJ leader: Netanyahu made mistake in empowering far-right Religious Zionism

United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni, whose ultra-Orthodox party is part of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc, says the premier made a mistake by empowering the far-right Religious Zionism party.

Religious Zionism, an alliance of three far-right factions that Netanyahu helped broker, has refused to join a government propped up by the Islamist Ra’am party, dooming Netanyahu’s chances of forming a narrow coalition of allied parties.

“Netanyahu erred and he acknowledged this mistake, that he gave such power to [Bezalel] Smotrich,” Gafni tells Kan public radio, referring to the head of Religious Zionism.

Following the March 23 elections, reports indicated UTJ and fellow Haredi party Shas were angered at Netanyahu, believing he bolstered Yamina at their expense.

Gafni is also asked if he believes Netanyahu has lost power, after Israel’s longest-serving premier returned the deadline to form a government after failing to assemble a coalition before last night’s deadline.

“It’s possible, but I’m not saying that,” Gafni says.

Meanwhile, Gafni also releases a statement on Yamina leader Naftali Bennett’s call for Netanyahu’s allies to join forces and form a unity government.

“No one is stupid. From the first moment Bennett preferred a government with Lapid to one with Netanyahu. I reject his offer to join such a government. No thanks,” Gafni says.

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