Matan Kahana
Matan KahanaAvshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90

The National Unity Party has reached an understanding concerning kashrut reforms with a new member on its list, former Religious Affairs Minister MK Matan Kahana.

As Religious Affairs Minister, Kahana privatized the awarding of certificates of kashrut (kosher certification) such that the Chief Rabbinate is no longer the direct provider of kashrut certificates to restaurants and other venues serving food. Instead, private bodies are permitted to award their own certificates based on their own definition of kosher food, and unless their bar for kosher certification is below the minimum that the reforms prescribe, the Chief Rabbinate is unable to intervene.

According to Shahar Glick's report on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio), the National Unity Party and Kahana have agreed that if Gantz forms a government with the haredi parties, there will be no compromises regarding kashrut reform and Kahana's program will remain unchanged.

The National Unity Party was formed when Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party joined forces with Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, leader of the New Hope Party.

Kahana related to briefings against him by the haredi parties: "They began targeting me even before I entered the Religious Affairs Ministry, and there was a campaign against me by the opposition."

According to him, "As a Religious Affairs Minister, I worked with haredim of all sects - with some of them openly, and there were those who approached me behind closed doors. I never did anything in opposition to halakha and everything was coordinated with rabbis and heads of yeshivas (Torah academies)."

With the announcement that Kahana had joined the National Unity Party, senior members of the haredi parties began to attack the move, claiming that this would remove any possibility for cooperation with the haredim.

Journalist Yaka Adamkar quoted the chairman of the United Torah Judaism party, MK Moshe Gafni, who said in a conversation with his associates that Gantz and Sa'ar "made a serious mistake" in adding Kahana to their list.

Minutes after the publication of this statement, Gafni's office stated that "the quotation published regarding Matan Kahana is false. MK Gafni has not expressed himself at all on the matter, and does not interfere in how the Left distributes its votes."

Senior officials from the Shas party were quoted in Walla! News as saying, "There is no joy like the resolution of all doubts. Now our entire camp knows, even those who wondered if they could work with Gantz, that we cannot be partners. The way is clear; we need the right-wing bloc to bring 61 seats and form the next government. The true faces of both Gantz and Sa'ar have been revealed this morning."

An official in the United Torah Judaism party told political commentator Shirit Avitan Cohen: "Adding [former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi] Eizenkot to Gantz’s list could have resulted in a coalition alternative in the event Bibi [Netanyahu] does not achieve 61 seats, but the addition of Matan Kahana ruins that possibility. It is a shame that Sa'ar was unable to prevent this in the same way that he was able to prevent the addition of Yoaz Hendel. Kahana and Hendel comprise a bright red flag preventing any possible future cooperation with the haredim."