Bennett: The ultra-Orthodox have too much political power

“I’m happy that there are haredim, but we need to limit their political influence,” the Israeli premier said. 

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

During a speech on Israel’s current political landscape at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that ultra-Orthodox parties hold too much sway when it comes to lawmaking in the Jewish State.

Bennett gave an overview of what he defined as the major political influences in Israel – the left-wing, which he called a “global humanist” force, the National-Religious camp which is essentially the political right, and the ultra-Orthodox.

“We are a Jewish state, and I’m happy that there are haredim, but we need to limit their political influence. And I wouldn’t want an Israel without a left-wing,” said Bennett, who added that “in practice, we need all three” political movements.

Speaking about his eclectic coalition, which includes eight parties spanning the political spectrum from Islamist and right-wing to socialist and liberal, he said that the gaps between the parties are less than the public may believe.

“I clearly feel differently from them on a lot of issues, but I want that counter-debate. I am proud to lead a government that’s there… that is committed to all of its citizens,” Bennett said.

“For that to happen, there needs to be real dialogue. Not only talking but also a novel thing in Israel: listening.”

Bennett said his government could serve as an example to Israelis that national unity can be achieved, despite the tensions in a highly polarized society.

“Our motto is that 70% of people agree on 70% of the issues, so let’s focus on that. But practically speaking, I see here a much greater potential. Let’s also start talking about the 30% [of issues].”

Bennett’s remarks about what he says is the disproportionate amount of power held by ultra-Orthodox politicians will likely spark further conflict with the groups.

Haredi community leaders and politicians have expressed their displeasure over Bennett’s rise to power in the past, calling him “evil” and a “destroyer” of traditional Judaism.

Ultra-Orthodox Shas party head Rabbi Aryeh Deri said in June that, “The new government is going to destroy the Jewish identity and character of the state, which allows us to live together.”

When learning of Bennett’s plans to introduce reforms to the kosher and conversion systems in Israel, the chief of the UTJ haredi party vowed that “there will be a war for every ‘T’ crossed and ‘I ‘dotted and, God willing, we will topple this evil government.”

It should be noted that Bennett’s political party holds six seats in the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, while the two ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset hold total of 16 seats.