Likud attempts to torpedo Change Bloc, woo Shaked

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of Yemina (Flash90/Ben Dori)

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Likud party is working overtime to try to torpedo the so-called change government, which is set to be sworn in at Israel’s Knesset on Sunday, Hebrew language media reported.

Yemina number two Ayelet Shaked, who is believed to have been reluctant to join the change bloc, was reportedly offered a generous deal.

If she would agree to thwart the coalition, she’d gain a position as Foreign Minister, as well as her own faction with four seats within the Likud party, sources told Kan News.

After the election, Shaked’s party could split off from Likud and function independently within the Knesset.

The Likud party also attempted to win over potential defectors by reserving several high-up spots on its list for New Hope or Yemina MKs who’d leave their parties.

As the largest party in Israel by a substantial margin, a high-up spot on the Likud list virtually guarantees that an MK will enter the Knesset after an election.

The haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties also launched a series of unprecedented verbal attacks on Yemina chair Naftali Bennett yesterday.

Yemina’s proposed reforms to the status quo in terms of religion and state in Israel, such as breaking up the Rabbinate’s monopoly on kosher certification by allowing alternative Orthodox kosher inspections, have drawn ire from the haredi establishment.

“The Jewish state is in danger! The State of Israel is changing its face and its character and its identity,” said Shas chair Aryeh Deri. “This isn’t a separation of religion and state, but an uprooting of religion from the state.”

Bennett “is going to destroy and ruin everything we have maintained for years,” added Deri.

“A government headed by Bennett will destroy Shabbat, conversion, the Chief Rabbinate, kashrut…for the sake of his personal ambition, Bennett is throwing away everything that is important to the Jewish people.”

UTJ head Moshe Gafni, who recently called women who undergo conversions while serving in the IDF “shiksas,” a derogatory term, and said that Benett is “wicked” and his name “will rot.”

MK Yaakov Litzman of UTJ called Bennett a “reform Jew” and said he should remove his kippah.

Bennett, who is a Shabbat-observant Orthodox Jew, responded by saying he was “saddened by the hysterical outbursts” from the haredi leaders, adding that they will not teach him “what Judaism or Zionism is.”

He said that the haredi public has nothing to fear, and that he will make sure the government of Israel serves all of its citizens.

A source from the UTJ party told Kan News that the haredi leaders had launched the verbal assault on Bennett at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but now regretted the move.

“It was a mistake,” the source said. “It was too early, and it strengthened Bennett amongst religious Zionists.”