“I’m Not Working for Netanyahu’s Political Survival”

Ultra-Orthodox party leader says what’s important is keeping Israel conservative, and most conservatives vote for Likud

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu
For Moshe Gafni, what's important is bringing the conservative religious Right back to power, not necessarily Netanyahu. Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Member of Knesset Moshe Gafni, head of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, said in a Saturday evening interview on Channel 12 that his primarily concern isn’t getting Benjamin Netanyahu back in the prime minister’s chair.

United Torah Judaism and the Knesset’s other major ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, Shas, have stuck doggedly with Netanyahu even as he was pushed into the opposition in the aftermath of the last national election.

But Gafni insisted that had less to do with Netanyahu himself and more to do with keeping Israel conservative.

“We are not working for Netanyahu’s survival. We are working for the conservative public that follows Netanyahu,” he clarified. “If the conservative public moves to another party and supports someone else, then we will support them. I want the State of Israel to be a Jewish state and the religious conservative public to be dominant.”

Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a religious conservative. But in Gafni’s estimation, Bennett deceitfully used the conservative votes of his constituents to help give rise to a “left-wing government.”

Twenty of the governing coalition’s 61 seats belong to right-wing parties, those being Bennett’s Yamina (7), the secular Israel Beiteinu (7) and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope (6). But at least another 20 seats belong to parties that can and most often are defined as “centrist,” while truly left-wing parties (Labor and Meretz) command just 13 seats in the coalition.

Gafni went on to stress that Netanyahu was wrong for not compromising more on previous budget talks in order to keep his last government in power and avoid the most recent election. However, he does not agree with those who say Netanyahu should step down as head of the Likud and the conservative Right over this political misplay.

Gafni insisted that those on the Right who are now pushing for Bibi’s ouster “don’t understand that as soon as Netanyahu leaves – the Likud falls apart.”

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