With the Coalition Teetering, UTJ Seems to make its Move
The United Torah Judaism party is part of the alliance of the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister and Likud leader. However, parliamentarians that belong to the Haredi UTI party have been open about their desire to return to power once more by forming a coalition of right-wing and religious parties. Obviously, they would prefer to do this without having to deal with an election. Lawmakers from the Likud party have hinted that they might be looking for a more appropriate leader. There was also speculation that they may decide to reshuffle the Knesset without Benjamin Netanyahu.
This was after reports emerged that Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister, had held a secret meeting with Moshe Gafni, the head of the UTJ. However, the United Torah Judaism party has remained adamant that they have a watertight alliance with Netanyahu’s party. It appears that the UTJ is not abandoning the political alliance just yet and is instead pushing Netanyahu to overcome struggles that seem to be personality driven, as they want to mend fences with some other politicians who appear to be ideologically aligned. Doing so would actually pave the way to setting up a new government.
The slim majority of the existing government in the Knesset was destroyed on the morning of April 6th when MK Idit Silman, the former coalition whip, decided to resign from the coalition. The same day, Moshe Gafni, the leader of the UTJ had put out a statement. He said that it was time for the opposition to assess itself and determine who has the best chances and is worthy of forming a new government without requiring elections. This was seen as a way of backing away from Netanyahu and Likudniks began complaining, while the pundits started chattering. But, Gafni disavowed the statement and backtracked almost immediately.
Rumors were fueled further when Yaakov Asher, the UTJ MK, referred to Benny Gantz as a ‘potential partner’ on Sunday and heaped a ton of compliments on the chief of the Blue and White party. Yitzhak Pindrus, a senior lawmaker of the UTJ party, said the very next day that they were lining up behind Benjamin Netanyahu. However, he did indicate that it was primarily because he was the leader of the biggest party that is part of the opposition alliance. While the statements did garner a lot of attention, they do not indicate any kind of political revolution.
Instead, they only seem to indicate with what UTJ has been claiming for a long time; their political alliance is watertight with the Likud party and not its leader. Pindrus said that if Likud decides to replace Netanyahu with a scarecrow, they would go with it. But, it is important to note that the comments indicate a challenge for Likud; as long as the party is led by Netanyahu, it will find it difficult to build alliances that can help them in getting back into power unless they decide to make some changes. Pindrus has made it clear that the UTJ will join any coalition with Likud because they have 30 candidates.