Haredi parties split over coalition crisis?

Shas MK Yaakov Margi slams UTJ for sparking coalition crisis over draft law.

Tzvi Lev,

Shas and UTJ leaders Moshe Gafni (r) and Aryeh Deri (l)
Shas and UTJ leaders Moshe Gafni (r) and Aryeh Deri (l)
Flash 90

Shas MK Yaakov Margi expressed frustration Thursday with fellow haredi lawmakers over the ongoing coalition crisis, sparked by United Torah Judaism MKs over a law that would protect draft deferments for yeshiva students.

"I have a harsh criticism for my friend [UTJ MK] Yaakov Litzman," Margi told Kikar Hashabbat. "When you are partners, before you give an ultimatum, you should at least update us."

Margi also said that Shas opposed efforts by UTJ to topple the government over the issue of draft deferments. "We have a good government for the haredim and the weaker sectors. The public does not want elections that just bring more elections," contended he said.

Margi's remarks echo comments he made on Wednesday night to Maariv blaming Litzman for causing a "catastrophe" for the haredim by pushing for new elections.

While the Sephardic Shas party and the Lithuanian-haredi UTJ usually work in tandem, the recent coalition crisis has caused tension between the two factions. Numerous Shas MKs have said that senior UTJ member MK Yaakov Litzman initiated the current coalition crisis without asking Shas their opinion of the issue.

On Wednesday, a senior Shas source told Hadashot that Litzman's behavior was liable to drive a wedge in between the Shas-UTJ alliance. "Litzman isn't acting properly - this isn't how we act with friends," he said, and said the UTJ was hurting the haredi public.

The United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party consists of two separate Ashkenazic-haredi parties, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel, who joined together prior to the 1992 elections.

Last week, Litzman emphasized that UTJ's decision not to vote for the State budget unless their draft law was approved first is "in accordance with Agudat Israel's Council of Torah Sages' ruling."

The haredi parties are currently discussing possible compromises with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.