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New Right’s Ayelet Shaked tries to woo ultra-Orthodox voters

Justice minister reaches out to ‘liberal’ Haredim in parlor meeting, says her new party wants to field an ultra-Orthodox candidate

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the New Right party at an event for lone soldiers in Tel Aviv on January 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the New Right party at an event for lone soldiers in Tel Aviv on January 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked roamed into new campaigning territory Thursday, introducing her New Right party at a parlor meeting of Haredi voters in the ultra-orthodox stronghold of Bnei Brak.

In a bid to woo ultra-Orthodox voters to her new party, Shaked echoed the line of her party leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennet, and attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling political party, the Walla news site reported.

“The Likud is not right[-wing],” Shaked said, telling a living room full of men, most of them lawyers, that Likud had supported the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.

Shaked’s appearance in Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv, came as a surprise given party officials’ previous statements to the effect that they are aiming to attract votes only from right-wing voters in rival parties. They indicated they were targeting right-leaning supporters of Yair Lapid’s opposition Yesh Atid Party and the newly formed Israel Resilience party, led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.

Education Minister Nafatli Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the New Right political party seen during an election campaign tour in central Jerusalem on January 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Most of the parlor meeting was devoted to issues that could be seen as a nod to “modern” ultra-Orthodox voters.

“The New Right can definitely be a home for the working ultra-Orthodox who want to integrate into society,” Shaked said, referring to the growing numbers of Haredim in the workforce.

“We promote Haredi integration into the labor market, and this is the most important thing in his case — more than the [military] draft,” she said. “Bennett promotes [gender] segregated Haredi higher education despite the massive opposition in the media and academia.”

Shaked also boasted about her and Bennett’s connection with the Haredi members of Knesset, pointing out the cooperation they had forged during their last term and saying that despite differences of opinion, those relationships were managed with dialog and understanding.

“There is room for an ultra-Orthodox representative in our party,” Shaked said.

One participant asked about her and Bennett’s connection in the previous coalition with Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid, which excluded the ultra-Orthodox parties from government due to Lapid’s demands to extend the military draft to Haredi men.

Shaked replied that “everything that happened then happened because Netanyahu pushed us into a corner and we had to join him.”

She lashed out at Yesh Atid, saying, “Lapid is fake-right, he is typical left.” However, despite the criticism of Likud, Shaked told those present that “after the elections, it is clear that we will recommend Netanyahu [to be prime minister], but you need us to form a strong right alongside him.”

Shaked and Bennett’s outreach to more liberal and working Haredim does not come in a vacuum. It is estimated that some 30,000 Haredim find themselves out from under the traditional umbrella of ultra-Orthodox parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism in recent years, voting for non-Haredi parties, including Likud.

Yisrael Cohen, an ultra-Orthodox journalist who was present at the parlor meeting, called Bennett and Shaked’s outreach to liberal Haredim a “correct step.”

“There are tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox who have left the boundaries of the Haredi establishment and do not always see themselves as part of the mainstream,” he said.

“Some of them went into academia, others went out to work immediately after their wedding, and they are more liberal than the establishment, and sometimes this liberalism takes revenge on them [the parties].  They have long been looking for a new political framework, and maybe Bennett and Shaked can provide that for them.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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