Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers threaten to topple Netanyahu government

Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox allies lash out after ‘Rabbis Bill’ pulled from the agenda amid criticism from within the Likud party.

By World Israel News Staff

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli lawmakers threatened to topple Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition Wednesday, after he shelved a bill which had been up for a vote in the Knesset.

The Knesset had been scheduled to vote on the so-called “Rabbis Bill,” a measure pushed by the two ultra-Orthodox factions – Shas and United Torah Judaism – that would cement the Chief Rabbinate’s power over state-funded religious services by giving it control over the appointment of neighborhood rabbis.

The bill would also give the Chief Rabbinate a greater say in determining the role of local, state-funded rabbis, and would make such rabbis civil servants, with their wages paid by the state, rather than local municipalities.

Critics in the Opposition have slammed the proposed legislation, however, citing both the increased control of the Orthodox rabbinate over religious affairs, as well as the potentially high costs to the state treasury for funding local rabbis.

Some Coalition MKs, including Moshe Saada and Tally Gotliv – both members of Netanyahu’s own Likud party – objected to the bill and threatened to vote against it.

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Netanyahu sound assurances from right-wing allies, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), that the bill would receive enough support to pass in the Knesset.

In order to guarantee his party’s support, Netanyahu offered Ben-Gvir a permanent observer position in all security talks regarding the current war with Hamas. Ben-Gvir, who has demanded a voting position, refused.

Fearing the bill could fail, handing the government an embarrassing defeat, Netanyahu pulled the measure from the Knesset agenda just hours before the scheduled vote.

The move drew the ire of Shas and United Torah Judaism, who had pressed Netanyahu to ensure its passage.

Shas chief MK Aryeh Deri angrily told Netanyahu Tuesday evening that he had lost control of his own party members, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.

Deri also reportedly threatened to bolt the government if the bill was not passed, a move which would deny the Coalition a majority and effectively force new elections.

“There is no coalition, there is no discipline, and the most frustrating thing is that Likud is a party made up of 35 separate factions,” a Shas MK told Kan.

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