The haredi plan to defeat Liberman: Praise him

Hoping to neutralize Liberman as a kingmaker in next Knesset, haredi lawmakers trying to undermine him - by praising his past work.

David Rosenberg ,

UTJ's Yaakov Litzman and Shas chief Aryeh Deri
UTJ's Yaakov Litzman and Shas chief Aryeh Deri

Haredi lawmakers hoping to undermine Yisrael Beytenu chief Avidgor Liberman and prevent him from becoming kingmaker in the 22nd Knesset have adopted a surprising, counterintuitive strategy for taking down the former Defense Minister – praising his past work in the Knesset.

Liberman drew the ire of MKs from both the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties after the April 9th election when he refused to join a new Netanyahu-led coalition government until the Likud committed to passing Yisrael Beytenu’s version of a haredi draft bill which received initial approval from the Knesset last year.

The bill, which replaces a previous law passed in 2015 but struck down by the Supreme Court, would largely retain the army draft deferment program for full-time yeshiva students, but would impose sanctions aimed at pressuring haredi yeshivas to meet statutorily-imposed draft quotas.

Both Shas and UTJ objected to the demand, offering instead to back passage of the bill – but without statutory quotas imposed by law, with the numbers of haredi enlistees required to be set instead by the government.

Liberman refused the offer, and the resulting stalemate ultimately foiled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government, leading to the early dissolution of the Knesset and the first repeat elections in Israeli history.

But ahead of the new election, the haredi parties are not planning a negative campaign blitz against Liberman, Israel Hayom reported Monday.

Believing that criticism from religious lawmakers would only strengthen Liberman’s standing with his largely secular base, haredi party officials plan instead to highlight Yisrael Beytenu’s close cooperation with haredi MKs.

“Liberman wants to pick a fight with the haredim,” a haredi political official told Israel Hayom. “We’re not going to give him that. He wants us to attack him, so that the political discussion gets turned to…Shabbat and all the related arguments,” referring to opposition to haredi-backed moves to tighten enforcement of laws restricting business and government activity during the Jewish day of rest.

“He wants to turn himself into the secular shield against the haredim, but Liberman is a liar. For all of these past years he was a partner with haredim on so many issues. He is lying to his base, and we will expose him.”