Health Minister Yakov Litzman on Thursday announced that his faction, United Torah Judaism, would leave Netanyahu’s coalition unless a new law is enacted to limit the power of the Reform movement in Israel, B’hadrei Haredim reported. Speaking at a dinner for the Gur yeshiva at the Avenue conference center near Ben Gurion Airport, Litzman referred to the danger of Reform Judaism and declared, “We will legislate a law that will limit the Reform. If this is not promoted — we’ll leave the coalition.”
Litzman’s announcement came following a directive from the Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel to its Knesset members to enact a new law to repair the status quo on issues of state and religion, in fear of continued legitimization by the government of the Reform and conservative denominations in Israel. The Council demanded a response from its MKs within 30 days.
Minister Litzman’s announcement came in advance of a meeting between senior representatives of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu this coming Sunday, to discuss the cabinet’s decision to allow Reform services at a secluded segment of the Kotel Plaza in Jerusalem. The meeting was requested by the chief rabbis and the minister of religious services, who complained that the decision was made without their consent, even though the area in question is in their domain.
Two weeks ago, the secretary of the Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Mordechai Stern, sent the UTJ MKs a letter saying, “You must condition your continued cooperation with the government on legislating a status quo concerning state and religion [according to the] arrangement that has been in place in Israel for scores of years, by which all the Jewish religion’s affairs are conducted by the Orthodox and not by the Reform.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) on Thursday night tweeted that he would ask his faction to join the Haredi ultimatum to Netanyahu.
Assuming that the Shas party would join the move, and that Naftali Bennett’s party would as well, the numeric value behind the threat against Netahyahu’s miniscule, 61 to 59 seat majority is existentially high: 21 votes. The remaining untapped, right-leaning parties, Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu, only have 17 votes to offer, combined, should they be requested to join the Likud-led coalition. And so Netanyahu would have to decide whether to capitulate and permit a law that reverses several years of Reform inroads in Israel, or stand his ground and declare new elections, two weeks short of a year since the last round.
Considering his recent failures to curb the Arab terror wave, Netanyahu is not in a strong position to face an election at this point in his career — the polls are giving Likud 3 seats fewer than its current position, and things could get worse.