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The Schmooze

Haim Amsallem Launches Moderate Haredi Party

One of the most remarkable things about covering Israeli politics is watching parties come and go. People have an amazing willingness to support a brand new party with no track record.

Earlier this month Yair Lapid, journalist and icon of secular middle-class Israelis, announced he was entering politics. As the Forward reported, before he even announced what his party would be called and who its other candidates would be, polls showed that he would win between seven and 20 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. Now, the religious community has its own Yair Lapid-like phenomenon.

Shas lawmaker Haim Amsallem is expected to head his own party in the next Knesset elections, which are expected next year, and if a new poll is to be believed he stands to win two seats. He’s something of a party rebel, as he takes a very moderate Haredi line, saying there should be a drop in army deferments for yeshiva students and that Haredi schools should teach the core curriculum just like secular schools.

Two out of 120 Knesset seats may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that nothing is known of what his party would propose, and what a niche appeal one would expect for such a party, it is a significant showing. Apparently, there are more “rebel” Haredim looking for outside-the-box political representatives than we normally realize.

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