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Shas leader defends absence of female candidates: ‘It isn’t their natural place’

Aryeh Deri asserts Haredi women would be ‘the first’ to oppose a party that has female ultra-Orthodox politicians; Liberman slams him as ‘minister for the exclusion of women’

Shas party chief Aryeh Deri speaks at an election rally in Jerusalem on March 11, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Shas party chief Aryeh Deri speaks at an election rally in Jerusalem on March 11, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Shas leader Aryeh Deri on Sunday defended the absence of women on his ultra-Orthodox party’s slate, claiming politics is not their “natural place.”

“Ask my wife and other women and they will answer — this is how they were educated — that it isn’t their natural place,” Deri told the Kan public broadcaster. “It runs counter to their worldview.”

He said that if Haredi women established their own faction or were selected as candidates on a party’s slate, “our women are the first who wouldn’t vote for this.”

Deri, who holds the post of interior minister, also said that if ultra-Orthodox women wanted to be active politically, there would be an organized movement advocating their inclusion.

“This doesn’t exist,” said Deri, who was interviewed ahead of the general elections on Tuesday.

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women walk past Border Police officers at a checkpoint in a neighborhood in Jerusalem, amid measures put in place by Israeli authorities stop the spread of COVID-19, on September 8, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the right-wing, secularist Yisrael Beytenu party, ripped Deri for the remarks, branding him “minister for the exclusion of women.”

Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman visits in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod after clashes broke out between police and ultra-Orthodox Jews over lockdown violations, January 12, 2021. (Flash90)

“On Tuesday, we’ll show him his natural place and fling him and his [United Torah Judaism] allies [Yaakov] Litzman and [Moshe] Gafni to the opposition,” tweeted Liberman, who was previously close with Deri but broke with him after elections in 2019.

Neither Shas nor the fellow ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, both key members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc, have any female candidates on their electoral slates.

In 2019, the High Court of Justice ruled that Agudath Israel, a sub-faction of UTJ, must strike a clause from its internal regulations stipulating that only men may run on the platform. Agudath Israel agreed to do so, but said the move was symbolic as its rabbis would not approve a female candidate for office.

There have been two female Haredi Knesset members in Israel’s history: Tzvia Greenfeld of the left-wing Meretz in 2008-2009, and current Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich of the centrist Blue and White party.

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