'You cost us a Knesset seat'

Mudslinging within haredi UTJ party, as Health Minister slams Degel Hatorah faction for party losses.

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Yaakov Litzman
Yaakov Litzman
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Health Minister Yakov Litzman (UTJ), who represents his party's Agudat Yisrael faction, slammed the Lithuanian-haredi faction Degel Hatorah for losing the party seats.

Agudat Yisrael is the hasidic-haredi faction of the Ashkenazic-haredi UTJ.

Speaking to MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), who leads the Degel Hatorah faction, Litzman said, "I'm not going to explain two years of political fights against me in five minutes. We have a committee of Torah scholars, and so do they. He won't force me to think the way he does. I have a right to think differently."

Earlier, Gafni accused Litzman of working to prevent Degel from garnering support in Haifa. Responding to this, Litzman said, "I did not disturb Degel Hatorah's work in Haifa. On the contrary, I met with Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and encouraged him to allow the Degel Hatorah representative to be his deputy. I did everything I could to help, but they rebuffed all my offers."

The United Torah Judaism party is a joint list of the hasidic Agudat Yisrael faction and the non-hasidic Degel Hatorah faction. Degel Hatorah was founded in 1988 at the behest of Rabbi Elazar Shach, who had pushed for the establishment of a party dedicated to the needs of the non-hasidic haredi community. Currently, Agudat Yisrael is represented in the Knesset by four of UTJ's six MKs, while Degel has two.

"The Degel Hatorah faction thinks our party should be comprised 60% of their representatives. They lost us a mandate. I think we [UTJ] should be comprised 70% of our Agudat Yisrael party."

"It was the Lithuanian-haredi community who did not vote for us. Degel Hatorah needs to do some soul searching and think about the damage they have caused. And they should not ask us for compensation right now."

Sephardic-haredi Shas party head Aryeh Deri, who serves as Israel's Interior Minister despite resigning from the position in 1993 after being charged with corruption, said, "Despite what LItzman has said, you should know that Litzman and Gafni sit together in the Knesset and cooperate so well you would think they were a pair of doves."

A recent poll showed UTJ as retaining its current six Knesset seats, down from seven in 2013. Shas, on the other hand, would drop to four seats. Another poll showed UTJ receiving seven seats, with Shas remaining stable at six seats.