Shas and UTJ Insiders: Not Afraid to Join the Opposition

"We are not shying away from entering the opposition...if Netanyahu makes his position more extreme...we won't be there," says Shas.

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Annie Lubin,

Deri, Yishai and Atias of Shas
Deri, Yishai and Atias of Shas

The feeling of overwhelming joy in Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) of having attained 11 and 7 seats respectively has been quickly overshadowed by an intense feeling of concern over Yair Lapid's come from behind victory and a fear of being a sort of fifth wheel in the next coalition. 

Many of the platforms that Lapid of Yesh Atid ran on are in direct opposition to the hareidi parties, and Lapid has said in the past that he would not sit in a coalition with the two parties.  

A senior minister in Shas told Arutz 7 on Wednesday that they are not afraid of joining the opposition, if that's what it comes down to.  

"We are not shying away from going into the opposition. We've been there before. We do not believe that the coalition could be held together without Shas, but if Netanyahu makes his position more extreme - and as it looks right now that is what's going to happen- we won't be there."

This statement is contrary to what Shas leader Eli Yishai told Channel 10 News on Wednesday, saying, "No coalition government will be established without the inclusion of Shas," and adding that he has no problem sitting in a coalition with Lapid. 

In an interview with Reshet Bet, MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, when asked if he would join a coalition with Lapid, said he would not rule anything out, adding that it is up to the members of the new coalition to act responsibly and be careful no to step on the toes of other coalition partners. 

However, in a conversation with Arutz 7, a senior member of United Torah Judaism said that if Lapid is in the coalition, UTJ will not be a part of it, citing that his inclusion would make UTJ feel like a fifth wheel and that his agenda is in direct contrast with the main concerns of UTJ.

"We are not negotiable, and we are not just a party in spirit. We have ideological lines that cannot be crossed. And if Netanyahu crosses them we will not be there, especially not as a fifth wheel," he said.

Just a few weeks ago Lapid made it clear that he would not join a coalition that included Shas and UTJ, saying he would not be a “fig leaf in a right-wing hareidi extremist government."

His main platform - equality of burden - was aimed at the hareidim. 

"Don’t tell us it’s complicated. It’s not complicated. Everyone has to enlist in military or civilian service, and everyone has to study the core curriculum and everyone has to work. And don’t say that what I’m saying is anti-hareidi; it isn’t. I don’t want anything from them that I don’t want from my children or myself.” Lapid said in the past, adding that he would force this issue on Netanyahu in the next government. 

“There won’t be another committee, no vague wording in the coalition agreement, no one will sell us stories that it’ll be discussed after we enter the government,” he said.

“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu had a historic opportunity to enlist the hareidim and bring them into the workforce and leave a real mark on Israeli society, but at the last minute was afraid and ran away,” Lapid said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

“He prefers to do nothing, so someone has to force him.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced in a press conference Wednesday that equality of burden would be one of the main agendas that the next government will focus on.