In an interview with Makor Rishon published Friday, Health Minister Rabbi Yakov Litzman said that unlike others in the political establishment, he would not rule out joining a coalition led by Zionist Camp head Avi Gabay. “We have our principles,” he said, “which include keeping the religious status-quo, banning transportation on Shabbos and halachic conversion. If Gedolei Yisrael would give us the instructions to do so, we would join Gabay.”
The question, of course, would be if Gabay would agree to that agenda, which would contradict the principles of many members of his party, as well as potential coalition partners Meretz and Yesh Atid, both of which would likely be necessary in order to form a government.
Still, said Minister Rabbi Litzman, if Gabay could pull it off to the satisfaction of Gedolei Yisrael, United Torah Judaism would not automatically dismiss joining a Gabay-led government. “I won’t say no in advance. If Gedolei Yisrael instruct us to go with Gabay, we will go with Gabay.”
In interviews last weekend, both Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon said that they are not interested in joining a government that would be headed by Gabay.
Speculation on what kind of coalition Gabay could put together rose last week in the wake of polls that show Zionist Camp rising. The poll showed that the Likud still would get the most seats in the Knesset, with 24 seats. However, the electoral power of Zionist Camp and Yesh Atid – seen as the main components of an anti-Netanyahu coalition – had grown, with the Gabay-led Zionist Camp getting 21 seats, and Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, getting 20 seats.
Speaking on Reshet (Channel 13), Minister Kahlon said his differences with Gabay were ideological and political. “Let me say this in as clear a manner as possible: We will not be a ‘fig leaf’ for a leftist government,” Kahlon said. “I consider myself to be part of the national camp, unlike the Labor Party and the ideology it follows. I opposed the disengagement and I am in favor of the Land of Israel, and a united Jerusalem. Thus I do not see us joining a leftist government led by Labor.”
Liberman, in his interview, called Gabay “irrelevant. There are at least two parties – Yisrael Beytenu and Kulanu – that will never join a Gabay-led coalition. It will be impossible to set up a coalition without those two parties.”
Liberman, too, said that he had nothing personal against Gabay. “There are a thousand and one reasons for these two parties to never be part of a coalition led by him. He has no chance of becoming prime minister, you can forget about that possibility altogether.”
The poll also showed that Jewish Home would get 12 seats in new elections, while United Torah Judaism would rise to eight seats, and Shas would get just four. Kulanu would receive eight seats, and Yisrael Beytenu would get six. Meretz would get five seats. Based on these results, Gabay could cobble together a coalition including Yesh Atid, Meretz and UTJ with 54 seats. An additional four seats from Shas would give him 58, still short of a coalition.