Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun, elected to the Jewish Home 11th spot last January, on Tuesday told Galey Israel Radio that it’s time to dismantle the pact that ushered both Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid parties into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
The interview is an open announcement of an idea that has been in discussion within Jewish Home for some time now.
An open and serious clash between the two parties, whose two leaders entered the coalition as brothers in arms, united against Netanyahu, has erupted over something called the Jewish Identity Administration, a new program devised by Bennett’s Ministry of Religious services.
The purpose of the new program was to enhance high school students’ love for the Jewish country, nation and history, through “creating live and meaningful encounters between our youth and the treasure trove of Jewish knowledge as well as the historic legacy of the nation of Israel.”
What the program was designed to do is hand out money to organizations that then would go and execute those ideas.
Except that Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced that Jewish tradition and the treasure trove of knowledge should include more than just Orthodox ideas. He wanted to see Conservative and Reform being represented as well.
In other words, take the Bennett et al idea and turn it on its head, because, frankly, much of what the initial purpose of the program entailed would have been fighting against the dangerous influence of non-halachic movements on the Jewish body politic.
In his radio interview, MK Chetboun described Lapid as pushing his own values against that of his National Religious partners. He reminded listeners that Lapid had also lumped Hesder yeshivas, whose students serve in the army in droves, together with Haredi yeshivas, and sucked the oxygen out of all of them. It took an irate intervention of Naftali Bennett to restore the budgets of the Hesderniks.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry, headed by Rabbi Shai Piron, a Lapid MK, is working on a program to “expand” recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish denominations. Call it a one-two punch.
Chetboun is openly calling for separation from Yesh Atid, even if this would be at the expense of the Jewish Home coalition membership. “Our pact with Yesh Atid positions us in an unhealthy place,” he argued, adding that the party is not commanded to stay in government at all cost, especially not at the cost of abandoning its values, such as the fact that it’s an Orthodox party.
Of course, Yair Lapid is probably the one politician who did the most to bring Bennett and his Knesset list into the government—for purely political and manipulative reasons, but, nevertheless, without him they would have been out and the Haredim in.
The crucial question is whether or not the bridges have been burned to a crisp between Naftali Bennett and the two Haredi parties, Shas and UTJ. Together, they represent a formidable block of 30 MKs – only one less than Likud Beiteinu’s 31. The problem is that a few of the Haredi MKs are anti-Zionist, and some of them have a greater empathy for, say Beduins in the Negev, than for Israeli Jews living in Judea and Samaria.
Still, the Chetboun interview today means that there’s a groundswell within the Jewish Home to sever the ties with Lapid and his minions, and it may not necessarily meet with disapproval on Naftali Bennett’s part.
The Galey Israel Radio interview. Sorry – nothing but Hebrew from this point on…