Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently expressed his sorrow in a conversation with MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) that the Haredim are not part of his coalition government, Reshet Bet radio reported Thursday morning.
“The fact that you are not in government is a shortcoming, I am very sensitive to this matter,” Bennett said.
The conversation took place during a closed-door session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and constituted the first dialogue between the prime minister and the Haredi MKs since the formation of the government that was followed by a boycott of Bennett by the Haredim.
At the meeting, MK Porush turned to Bennett and asked him to comment on the conversion reform that’s being promoted by Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana, who is a member of Bennett’s Yamina party. A conversation ensued between Bennett and Porush, even though it was not related to the committee’s agenda.
MK Porush asked the PM: “Why do you let the sons of non-Jews be converted?”
Bennett responded: “We won’t agree on everything, but we have no intention of being confrontational against the Haredim.” He also noted that the conversions “are also not your concern,” meaning that the Haredim do not seek marriage with these individuals anyway.
“We’re doing the right thing,” Bennett continued, “And even if it seems to you that it’s against you, you should know that it isn’t.”
PM Bennett would love to expand his coalition government to include the Haredim, although it isn’t clear whether the senior partner in the current coalition government, Foreign Minister, Alternate Prime Minister, and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid feels the same way. But it should be noted that Minister Meirav Cohen of Yesh Atid told Reshet Bet on Thursday: “I am in favor of a broad unity government, including with the Haredim.”
The two left-wing coalition partners, Labor and Meretz, would walk out should the Haredim agree to join the Lapid-Bennett coalition. But math is not on their side. Labor, with 7 Knesset seats, and Meretz with 6 would be outnumbered by United Torah Judaism with 7 seats and Shas with 9. Also, without the left-wing partners, Yamina’s rogue MK Amichai Chikli might become less rogue and start voting with the government. So, win-win.
Several United Torah Judaism MKs have been critical recently of their party’s chairman, MK Moshe Gafni, for his vehement antagonism regarding Bennett and his party. MK Israel Eichler, for instance, refused earlier this month to linger for long hours into the night just for the chance to embarrass the Bennett government one more time. He went home to bed instead. Eichler and Porush are allies inside United Torah Judaism and have been critical of Gafni’s pointless loyalty to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu who can no longer deliver the goods for Haredi society.