(September 5, 2019 / JNS) Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism Party head Yaakov Litzman on railed against Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid on Thursday, saying that Lapid had “infected” Gantz with the “contagious disease” of anti-Semitism.
Litzman’s remarks followed a statement by Gantz on Tuesday to the effect that if charged with forming a coalition after Israel’s Sept. 17 elections, he would form a “liberal” unity government, insinuating that he would not include the ultra-Orthodox parties.
“Up until yesterday, I did not attack Gantz at all,” Litzman told Kan public radio. “I said I could go with him, provided that Lapid isn’t with him. But evidently, Lapid is a contagious disease, and he has also infected Gantz.”
“Criticism is legitimate, it’s allowed. But whoever hates [the Jewish] religion I believe is anti-Semitic,” added Litzman.
On Tuesday, Gantz appeared to say that he would not form a coalition with ultra-Orthodox parties, a seeming shift for the party leader, who had previously maintained good relations with UTJ and the Shas Party.
“I promise that immediately after the elections we’ll establish a liberal unity government that will be based on the majority, not extremists and extortion,” said Gantz. “Prime ministers have surrendered to the blackmail of sectoral parties instead of worrying about what the majority needs.”
Lapid has long pushed to end exemptions from the mandatory military draft for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students. Last month, he tweeted a campaign video portraying ultra-Orthodox political leaders as providing loyalty to the prime minister in exchange for large sums of money.
Litzman slammed the video for utilizing anti-Semitic tropes, saying Lapid had crossed a “red line.”
Lapid fired back that he would not be criticized by someone who “protects pedophiles,” a reference to allegations that Litzman personally intervened in the cases of at least 10 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders.
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