MK Rabbi Amsallem
MK Rabbi AmsallemFlash 90

Rumors in the Knesset say that journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid is considering the possibility of cooperating with hareidi-religious MK Chaim Amsallem of Shas. While Amsallem is technically still part of the Shas party, he has publicly split with its leadership and has founded his own movement.

The move would be a surprise because Lapid has been expected to field a secularist and elitist team in the party he will found, much like his father, Yosef Lapid, did when he led Shinui. Lapid is seen as pandering to an Ashkenazi-secular target electorate, while Amsallem is hareidi and Sephardic.

However, Amsallem is a maverick who has come out with some positions that earned him the wrath of Shas's leadership and made him a darling of the media. These include statements in which he called on hareidim to enlist for military service and to seek regular employment in the workforce. Amsallem also believes that hareidi learning institutions should teach "core subjects" including mathematics and English, and not just Torah studies.

Observers say that both Amsallem and Lapid could have much to gain from a union. Lapid would dent his elitist image and Amsallem would have a better chance of making it into the 19th Knesset.