Haredi parties should thank their nemesis

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman mounted the most egregious anti-haredi campaign ever seen in Israel. By doing so, he gave Shas and United Torah Judaism a much-needed push in the polls.

Yisrael Beiteinu Party leader Avigdor Lieberman, Sept. 6, 2020. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
Yisrael Beiteinu Party leader Avigdor Lieberman, Sept. 6, 2020. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
Yehuda Shlezinger (Israel Hayom)
Yehuda Shlezinger
Yehuda Shlezinger writes for Israel Hayom.

This has been a very difficult year for the ultra-Orthodox public and especially for haredi lawmakers.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the sector mercilessly. Lockdowns stuck large families in small houses, while yeshivah students roamed the streets aimlessly, and some have strayed from the righteous path. If that weren’t bad enough, animosity towards the haredi public reached new heights over its constant flouting of public-health directives.

Lockdown policies affected religious practices, the haredim were livid, and the ultra-Orthodox Knesset members were in the eye of the storm but were helpless to defend themselves as constituents’ rage grew.

When Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich stepped in as the alternative, he dragged the haredi parties into the election campaign battered and bruised. Haredi voters were angry and election-weary, and the danger of losing seats to the Religious Zionist Party was very real.

Then came Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman mounted the most egregious anti-haredi campaign ever seen in Israel. He claimed that the ultra-Orthodox were extortionists and parasites, and that they were making a mockery of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and he promised that they would be deprived of budgets in the next government. He even went the extra mile by saying that they and Netanyahu should be heaped together in the trash.

Lieberman kept going on election day, warning voters that the haredim were rushing to the polls “in droves”—and this all took place in the Jewish state. Were he doing this in Europe, his outrageous remarks would earn nothing but condemnation; but in Israel, he maintained his power, winning (as of the latest count) six seats.

Lieberman may have fanned the flames, tearing secular and Orthodox Israelis apart, but he inadvertently saved the ultra-Orthodox parties’ campaigns. If nothing else, haredi voters rallied around their leaders to ward off a common enemy.

Shas and United Torah Judaism made it clear to their supporters that not voting on March 23 was akin to voting for Lieberman. Add to that the High Court of Justice’s ruling ordering the state to recognize non-Orthodox conversions, and a few anti-haredi remarks by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, and you have the answer to the question of how the ultra-Orthodox parties kept their parliamentary power.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates