Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, who heads the haredi stream known as the "Jerusalem faction," has declared he will not be supporting any political party in tomorrow's general elections.
The decision was communicated by his close aid, Rabbi Yoseph Petrov, who announced that the rabbi "would not be giving instructions to vote," and that therefore his followers - who only vote in accordance with their rabbi's wishes - would be boycotting the elections.
The announcement, reported by the haredi Kikar Hashabbat website, put an end to growing speculation Rabbi Auerbach had in fact decided to back the Yachad-Ha'am Itanu party under Eli Yishai - claims most recently made by Channel 2's haredi affairs reporter, Yair Cherki, and haredi website Haredim10.
Those reports claimed that while Rabbi Auerbach, a leading figure in the Ashkenazic "Lithuanian" stream, would not be issuing an open instruction to vote Yachad, such a directive would either be published in the stream's newspaper, Hapeles, or simply be communicated by word of mouth. The reports further claimed that the decision to support Yishai was made after Yachad's patron rabbi, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, promised Rabbi Auerbach in writing to do all he could oppose the Enlistment Law.
Such an announcement would have had a highly significant impact on the election results, since the Jerusalem Faction's support will almost undoubtedly carry Yachad pass the threshold required to enter the Knesset. The party has been polling at 4 or 5 MKs, but some polls have put it dangerously close to the threshold, or beneath it.
A failure by Yachad to pass the threshold would mean a loss of over 100,000 votes from the religious-nationalist camp.
The Lithuanian-haredi Jerusalem Faction split off from United Torah Judaism and its voting potential is estimated at tens of thousands of votes. It is adamantly opposed to the Enlistment Law that requires haredi men to enter military service. The possibility that the stream would support Yachad, which is Sephardic, with a strong religious-Zionist and pro-IDF element, was initially highly unlikely, but seen as the faction's last remaining option after Shas reportedly would not give Rabbi Auerbach the same kind of commitment to oppose the Enlistment Law.
With the elections being as closely contested as they are, Yachad's success or failure to pass the threshold could make the difference between a Likud-led government and a unity government, one led by Labor, or some kind of deadlock.
Meretz and Yisrael Beytenu are also polling near the threshold. A failure by Meretz to enter the Knesset would be a severe blow to the Left.