Ultra-Orthodox parties to ‘unequivocally’ back Netanyahu as next PM
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Ultra-Orthodox parties to ‘unequivocally’ back Netanyahu as next PM

United Torah Judaism’s Yaakov Litzman and Shas’s Aryeh Deri meet in Jerusalem, vow not to join Gantz-led coalition ‘under any circumstances’

Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri (right) speaks with United Torah Judaism leader MK Yaakov Litzman (left) during the opening session of the 20th Knesset, March 31, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Shas leader MK Aryeh Deri (right) speaks with United Torah Judaism leader MK Yaakov Litzman (left) during the opening session of the 20th Knesset, March 31, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The leaders of the two major ultra-Orthodox political factions, Shas and United Torah Judaism, announced Thursday they were joining forces to ensure that Benjamin Netanyahu wins the April 9 election and forms the next coalition government.

Shas chairman Aryeh Deri and UTJ head Yaakov Litzman met in Deri’s office in Jerusalem on Thursday to begin coordinating their parties’ campaigns.

They vowed to back Netanyahu over rival Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

“We continue with all our might to unequivocally support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and not Gantz,” the two party leaders said in a joint statement after the meeting.

They went on to rule out sitting in any future coalition with secularist Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party and second-in-command of Blue and White.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (L) and Israel Resilience party chief Benny Gantz. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90, Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yesh Atid advocates military and national service for Haredi youth and injecting a modern curriculum in traditionalist ultra-Orthodox schools.

“We will join, united and together, only a coalition formed by Netanyahu, and will be strong partners at his side. We will not negotiate or discuss joining a coalition that includes Yair Lapid under any circumstances,” Deri and Litzman said.

Former defense minister and head of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party Avigdor Liberman has previously ruled out the option of sitting in a government led by former IDF chief of staff Gantz. A minister in the center-right Kulanu party, by contrast, has said her party would consider an alliance with Gantz, under certain conditions.

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