A debate seems to be growing in United Torah Judaism on whether or not the party would join a government headed by Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni, if they form one after the upcoming March 17 elections.
Earlier in the week, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni said that the party would consider such a possibility, but the comment generated a great deal of criticism within the haredi party – to the extent that party MK Ya'akov Litzman publicly declared that it would be next to impossible for UTJ to join such a government.
Gafni has stood out among haredi legislators in calling for haredi parties to back a left-wing coalition – which would likely set about harming and even uprooting Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – "in revenge" for the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party's decision to join the previous government along with the secularist Yesh Atid party. That government advanced several policies apposed by UTJ – most notably a bill to end the blanket exemption from the IDF for haredi yeshiva students – and Gafni has led the pack in calling for haredi politicians to in turn support policies which would harm the religious-Zionist public in response.
But Litzman reiterated that apart from anything else, an issue that would prevent UTJ from joining a Herzog/Livni-led government is the almost definite likelihood that it would promote and enact into law measures that would allow public transportation companies to operate on Shabbat. Enacting such a law is part of the political stance of nearly all of Labor's potential coalition partners, including Meretz, Yesh Atid, and Yisrael Beytenu.
While the current government – which includes the Likud and Jewish Home, both opposed to public transportation on Shabbat – was able to resist enacting such laws, said Litzman, it was able to do so only with great difficulty. In contrast, the parties that advocate Shabbat buses would likely be able to steamroll laws allowing it with no problems in a Herzog/Livni government.
Litzman, quoted in Thursday's Hamodia, said that Herzog himself had expressed support for such a measure in recent interviews. “This would be a major violation of the long-standing status quo on religious matters in public life,” said Litzman. “It is sad that someone who wishes to lead the country cannot appreciate Sabbath observance, which is a basic principle of Jewish life.”
Earlier in the week, UTJ MKs and officials slammed Gafni for hinting that the party could join a leftist government. “We will decide who to support after the elections,” Gafni said. “We do not rule out being a part of any government.”
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, a senior UTJ source said that Gafni did not represent the party's views on this matter.