Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Parties in Tight Spot After Poor Israeli Vote Showing

Bibi May Join Secular Centrists and Exclude Haredim

Sidelined: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties suffered serious setbacks in the Israeli election and may be sidelined from new government.
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Sidelined: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties suffered serious setbacks in the Israeli election and may be sidelined from new government.

By Reuters

Published January 24, 2013.
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Resentment towards the Haredim has been building for years, as they have taken over neighbourhoods and imposed their rule, with zealots separating the sexes in buses, and harassing women and girls if they stray from their strict clothing etiquette.

Bowing under the high cost of living, Israeli tax-payers have accused the ultra-Orthodox of sponging off the state. Benefits are often not specifically defined for any one group in the law, but conveniently, eligibility seems to fit the Haredi.

Discounts on municipal taxes, for instance, can be determined by household income and family size. The Haredi have an average of some eight children per family and because of their low employment rates, have very low income.

Perhaps the biggest bone of contention is the fact that most ultra-Orthodox men can skip obligatory military service because of their religious studies.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that this was unconstitutional and ordered a reform. Senior Yesh Atid officials say curtailing the exemptions must be a priority for the new coalition.

Making a virtue of necessity, Netanyahu has now embraced the language of the centre, saying on Wednesday that it was clear that voters wanted “increasing equality in (bearing) the burden”, adding that this would be one of his three priorities.

Rahat said Netanyahu’s statement could well have been a bargaining move to alarm the ultra-Orthodox parties and lower their price for joining the coalition.

However, he cautioned the secular centrists against raising their expectations. Highly motivated, ready to follow their rabbis onto the streets and driven by a firm belief that they are doing the work of God, the Haredim make a formidable foe.

“The Haredi leadership’s interest is to keep them (Haredim) with their head just above water. I can’t see how this can be changed with (Yesh Atid’s) 19 parliamentary seats,” he said.


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