The spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party declared on Tuesday that if Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman removed their respective vetoes on joining a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, they would be rewarded with a slice of heaven.
“Liberman and Lapid, if you will agree to join a coalition that the ultra-Orthodox control, you will be awarded with a heavenly voice that will declare… ‘You are invited to the World to Come,'” said Rabbi Shalom Cohen at a Shas party event.
Cohen, who aggressively criticized the Blue and White and Yisrael Beytenu MKs throughout the election campaign, has now moderated his tone regarding the pair of lawmakers. “I am sure that you did not intend to anger the blessed Holy One, but only the politicians. The proof is that [God] did not allow you to form a bad government,” he said to an audience of Shas supporters.
Days after the September 17 election, when it became clear that just about any possible coalition would require Blue and White and Likud to sit together, the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties changed their strategy regarding Lapid, long a persona non grata in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox world’s rabbinic leadership.
Lawmakers from the Degel Hatorah faction in UTJ promised in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month to speak to their spiritual leader, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, about lifting their boycott of Lapid, signaling flexibility in the upcoming talks.
Members of UTJ’s other faction, Agudat Yisrael, will similarly consult with their rabbis on the issue, though Channel 12 news reported that they were waiting to hear Kanievsky’s opinion before moving forward.
A statement put out at the time by Shas leader Aryeh Deri expressed willingness to sit with Lapid, despite a bitter campaign in which the party accused him of anti-Semitism.
The Haredi parties had taken a similar approach to Liberman, who had campaigned aggressively against Shas and UTJ, in an effort to cater to his secular base of supporters.
Netanyahu’s deadline for trying to form a governing coalition is October 24. At that point, President Reuven Rivlin may grant Netanyahu a 14-day extension, though this is seen as unlikely due to his low chances of success.
Rather, Rivlin is expected to task Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz with trying to cobble together a coalition. Three weeks ago, Netanyahu was granted the opportunity to build a government and vowed to allow the president to grant it to another candidate if he failed to do so in a matter of days.