Coalition talks hit yet another snag on Tuesday, jeopardizing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s prospects of forming a new government by the Friday deadline.
After it was disclosed on Monday that a struggle between Likud-Beiteinu and Yesh Atid over the Education Ministry was the cause of the latest impasse, by Tuesday evening it emerged that Jewish Home’s demand for chairmanship of the Knesset Finance Committee was also holding up a final agreement.
Jewish Home sources told The Jerusalem Post that “in order to meet our promise of economic reforms and to disperse the concentration, we need to have the ability to break down barriers and the committee will give us the tool do so.”
Whereas at the beginning of the week, party officials were expressing confidence that a new government would be formally presented to President Shimon Peres on Wednesday, by late Tuesday uncertainty prevailed.
Meanwhile, a flurry of letters from rabbinical leaders in the national-religious camp was adding to the uncertainty and emotion of the situation.
A letter sent on Tuesday by the Teaching House for Public Affairs, headed by Rabbi Dov Lior, Rav of Kiryat Arba to Netanyahu and the heads of the parties set to join the coalition, calling on them to “save the spiritual core of our country as a Jewish state and to preserve the sanctity of the Jewish people.”
This letter comes after Rav Lior, along with three other Rabbanim in the settler community, issued a letter last week that was supportive of Bennett and his bond with Lapid.
“Following the updates we received from you and despite all the media hysteria, we strengthen your hand [support] the path which you are [both] taking for the preservation of the Torah world and the settlement of the Land of Israel, in cooperation with Yair Lapid and the Yesh Atid party,” the letter read.
It is unclear what made Rav Lior pen the new letter asking the prime minister for support for religious issues, after he was so confident in his representatives just last week.
Other Rabbanim in the national religious sector came out swinging at the Lapid-Bennet pact. In a sharp missive publicized Monday, the letter blasted the positions Bennett and his party have taken in his alliance with Yesh Yatid leader Yair Lapid and the coalition’s plans on limiting bnei yeshivah and their budgets.
The letter was signed by Rabbi Tzvi Yisrael Tau, Rabbi Amiel Sternberg and Rabbi Mordechai Sternberg, the Roshei Yeshivah of Har Hamor, one of the leading yeshivos in the sector.
The letter said that Torah is the basis of the Jewish nation and its country. “All talk and suggestions about limiting Torah learning, establishing quotas (of bnei yeshivah) and plans to cut the budgets (for Torah learning) through uninformed elements [who have] too much power and political manipulations are a hit at the crown of Torah, a chillul Hashem and lowers the keren Yisrael, chalillah.” They add that all of Klal Yisrael should be praying for the talmidei chachamim and their talmidim.
On the top of the letter, they quote a Midrash in Eichah: “Why are cities of Israel destroyed? Because they did not support talmidei chachamim.”