Benny Gantz didn’t really mean it when he said he would establish a government without chareidim at a rally Tuesday night – in fact, that announcement was made with full cooperation of chareidi MKs. And the point of it all, according to Avigdor Liberman, was to “steal his thunder” and weaken his Yisrael Beytenu party.
“We have been informed that there was consultation between Gantz and United Torah Judaism MKs, who were ready with responses to Gantz’s comments and released them barely a minute after he made his statement,” Liberman said in a statement. “It’s clear that the chareidi parties and Blue and White are concerned over the rise of Yisrael Beytenu, and this cooperation shows the true intention of Gantz after the election – to give the chareidim ‘carte blanche’ in making demands for membership in his coalition.”
Gantz’s comments garnered harsh reactions from UTJ MKs. In a statement later Tuesday night – not minutes after Gantz’s announcement as per Liberman – United Torah Judaism leaders Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman and MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said that “Gantz has revealed himself to be a person bereft of values or backbone. He has no problem dividing Israeli society for a few doubtful mandates. He is not fit for a responsible position, a person without any capacity [for leadership] whatsoever. His partnership with Yair Lapid testifies to the words of Chazal: ‘Woe unto the wicked, woe unto his neighbor.’”
Speaking in an interview Wednesday morning, Rabbi Gafni said that even if Gantz were to dump Yair Lapid, who until now has been the anti-chareidi element in the party, UTJ would be unlikely to enter a government with him.
In a social media post Wednesday, Shas leader Rabbi Aryeh Deri joined the chorus against Gantz. “It is troubling and hurtful that Gantz is following Lapid down the path of hatred, elitism and divisiveness, all to get s few votes. Benny Gantz, you have chosen to fight and exclude your brothers and sisters, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, simply because of their beliefs and lifestyle. You will carry personal responsibility for this division.”