Haredi parties sign to run jointly in Knesset election

Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah put their differences aside to continue their joint bid in the April ballot.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah have signed an agreement to continue the tradition of running together in Knesset elections in the April 9 ballot.

The two parties have run together as United Torah Judaism (UTJ) since the 1999 election, as part of an overall trend in Israel’s parliamentary life to raise the percentage of the vote required to enter the Knesset and encourage parties to join forces to consolidate their vote.

To many in the outside world, UTJ and Shas have been known merely as the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, parties, but within UTJ, there are sects and sub-sects that include Hasidic and Lithuanian representatives, as the two opposing ideologies are known, but also other differences from within.

It is the complexity of these divisions which makes the inner pre-election negotiations, involving both politicians and rabbis, so intricate. Still, at the end of the day, the sides have agreed to run together again.

The agreement was signed Wednesday despite reported anger from the Belz Hasidic sect, within Agudat Yisrael, over its poor placing on the list. Degel HaTorah had itself been upset over what it considered discrimination in the formation of the list but ultimately fell in line as a result of various arrangements that were made.

The division of power includes reserving the top spot on the Knesset list for Agudat Yisrael’s Yaakov Litzman but granting Degel HaTorah the first choice at picking potential prestigious posts either in the government or Knesset committees. MK Litzman currently serves as deputy health minister and MK Moshe Gafni is chairman of the Finance Committee in the outgoing parliament.

The Kikar Shabbat haredi news outlet is reporting that this unity agreement will remain in effect for two terms to avoid this process before the next Knesset election.