The ongoing dispute between Shas and the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party had a Shas MK echoing claims made by Peace Now and other far-left groups in an interview Wednesday with Arutz Sheva.
MK Yitzchak Vaknin accused Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett of viewing hareidi-religious Jews as a burden on society – a characterization Vaknin hotly rejected.
“I’m a burden on Israeli society? Let’s check the funding that was given to Judea and Samaria in recent years and tell the truth. I’ll pull the mask off your faces,” he said.
“Don’t mess with me,” he warned. “I will take out the budget and display the millions given to Judea and Samaria.”
Peace Now and similar left-wing groups have long claimed that Israel funds Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria at the expense of other causes. Pro-Judea and Samaria activists, on the other hand, say their communities ultimately save money by creating jobs and housing opportunities and improving security.
While support for settlement in Judea and Samaria is widely linked in public perception to the religious-Zionist community, the Jewish population of the region spans the spectrum from secular to religious-Zionist to hareidi-religious, and the two fastest-growing cities in the area – Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit – are hareidi.
Vaknin clarified that despite his criticism of Bennett, he is not an opponent of initiatives to settle Judea and Samaria. “I’m not sorry that I voted for Judea and Samaria communities all these years,” he said. “I see the settlement enterprise as a huge boon for the people of Israel.”
“I gave my soul for you,” he added. “I’m talking from the heart.”
He rejected reports that Bayit Yehudi had offered to create a religious bloc including Shas that would work together in coalition negotiations. “Lies and falsehoods. You can check to see who is the liar here, there was no appeal to us,” he said.
Despite his dispute with the Jewish Home, he said, he would not decline to sit with the party in the same government. “I will not boycott any Jew,” he said. “For me, a boycott would be the end of the world.”
Ultimately, Vaknin warned, if the religious-Zionist community rejects the hareidi-religious community, it will lose in turn. “The Disengagement from Gush Katif was born of this kind of behavior,” he argued. “Today, too, I warn you, the Labor party is likely to join the coalition in the middle of the term and create harsh difficulties for settlements.”