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Hareidi UTJ Party Hints: We Will Join Kadima Government

Though the two factions of the United Torah Judaism party are not in agreement, they agree on one thing: Joining a Kadima-led coalition, despite the withdrawal plans, is a distinct possibility.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/23/2006, 10:54 PM / Last Update: 3/23/2006, 1:16 PM

MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) told Israel Radio this morning that he does not rule out joining a government led by Ehud Olmert and Kadima. This, in the face of Olmert's declaration of last night that only parties that accept his plan for further disengagements will be invited to join the government he hopes to form.

Despite the interviewer's harping on whether Ravitz would agree to unilateral withdrawals, Ravitz insisted in turning the discussion to the bilateral nature of the coalition agreement his party might sign.

Anchor Aryeh Golan asked, "Are you in fact willing to agree in advance to Olmert's plan of 'turning inward' to settlement blocs in order to join his coalition if he wins?"

Ravitz began by saying that the decision will be made by the Council of Torah Sages, and then added, "In order not to leave you without an answer, I can tell you with certainty that signed agreements must be kept, and if we sign a coalition agreement with someone, we will keep it and we'll demand that the other side do so as well..."

Golan: "Yes, but you are still in the government, even after all the opponents of the disengagement left it a long time ago, so does this mean that you will agree to further unilateral withdrawals?"

Ravitz: (slowly) "No, it doesn't mean that; it means that we stayed in the government despite all that happened - which means something - but you are talking to me about a program of which no one knows the details."

Golan: "It [the program to withdraw unilaterally from large areas of Judea and Samaria] has been publicized very clearly..."

Ravitz said that only the principles thereof have been publicized, and "the question that we have to weigh is what is the price of living here in the Land of Israel. We have to see the details. All the large plans depend on their little details, and we will have to weigh them."

Golan: "I understand between the lines that--"

Ravitz: "All the other parties, except for Marzel, are willing to compromise a little -"

Golan: "Yes, but not unilaterally, and not on such a great amount of Judea and Samaria."

Ravitz: "Certainly not unilaterally; an agreement is bilateral, and whoever signs has to agree to keep to it; I'm against signing and then backing out, I'm against that."

Golan: "OK, but I'm talking about agreements with the Palestinians, not the coalition agreement..."

Ravitz: "I'm saying that if we sign a coalition agreement, I can promise you that we will keep it.

Golan: "Yes, that's for sure."

Though Ravitz is open to joining Olmert's coalition, his party colleague Yaakov Litzman makes such a move conditional upon the willingness of Shas to do the same. "I will do everything in my power to make sure that we join the coalition only together with Shas," Litzman told Arutz-7 today. "But this is only my opinion, and I do not represent Degel HaTorah." Litzman belongs to the Agudat Yisrael faction of UTJ, while Ravitz is of Degel HaTorah.

Litzman said that this does not mean that if he joins the government, he will vote for withdrawals. "When we joined last time," he said, "we voted against it in every disengagement vote."

A-7: "Yes, but is it not so that your joining of the government allowed those votes to take place in the first place? It is claimed that If you hadn't joined, the government would likely have fallen."

Litzman said this is not true, and that he joined the government at the time, by order of the party rabbis, in order to make sure that Shinui "would not return to the government and continue to destroy religious services in Israel," and that there was "a majority for the disengagement even without us."

After UTJ decided to join the coalition last year, MK Ravitz acknowledged to Arutz-7 that the party's decision to do so had caused some tensions: "...as it is, we have already lost many votes. The Yesha [Judea and Samaria] residents expected us to vote against the government... The next elections won't be easy..."

A senior source in the Moving Rightward campaign - which is coordinating thousands of phone calls and house-to-house visits to potential Kadima voters in an attempt to persuade them to vote for any right-wing party instead - says that UTJ is far from his first choice. "I don't know if we can really count on UTJ," he said. "The main hope is that if we get 61 MKs in the right-wing and religious bloc, it is almost certain that a nationalist government can be formed. But if Olmert forms the government, then I can't be sure what UTJ or Yisrael Beiteinu will do."