There are increasing rumors in recent days that Degel HaTorah may split off from Agudas Yisrael and run for the next Knesset independently.
UTJ chairman Moshe Gafni even visited HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein in the hospital to discuss the issue with the Gadol HaDor. HaRav Edelstein is Baruch Hashem recovered and feeling well and was released from the hospital on Monday afternoon.
There are several reasons why Gafni is seriously considering splitting from Agudas Yisrael, despite very real fears that a split will drastically decrease Chareidi representation in the Knesset as polls show that Agudas Yisrael will not pass the electoral threshold if it runs independently.
The main reason is a recent agreement that the Belzer chassidus formed with the State to increase the hours spent on math and English in its chedarim in exchange for increased government funding. HaRav Edelstein is fervently opposed to any State involvement in Chareidi chinuch and is extremely concerned over possible future implications of the agreement to all stripes of Chareidi society.
An additional issue is a dispute over UTJ’s leadership and the representation on the party list. An agreement by the two parties rotates the leadership of UTJ, which means that an Agudas Yisrael representative will lead the party in the next Knesset. However, since UTJ sat in the opposition in the past Knesset, which also lasted for only a brief period of time, Gafni is insisting that the leadership remain with Degel HaTorah for the next Knesset.
Additionally, the makeup of the Chareidi sector has changed over the years, with studies showing that Degel HaTorah voters outnumber Agudas Yisrael voters, When UTJ was first formed, the ratio was set as 60-40 in favor of Agudas Yisrael. In 2019, the ratio was adjusted to 50-50 and now Gafni wants the ratio adjusted to 60-40 in favor of Degel HaTorah in reflection of the new demographics.
A large gathering of all members of Degel HaTorah in the Knesset and municipal authorities is being held on Tuesday on the occasion of the tenth yahrzeit of HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, z’tl. One of the panels at the conference will focus on the future of Degel HaTorah, during which a possible split is expected to be discussed – not only in the Knesset but in a number of municipalities as well.
However, contrary to the above reports, Degel HaTorah MK Yaakov Asher on Monday morning denied rumors that Degel HaTorah is considering a split from Agudas Yisrael. In an interview with Kol B’Ramah, Asher said: “No one has a goal of running separately, there was never such an intention. There are essential issues that have been presented to the Gedolei HaDor and a discussion is taking place, but there are no threats here.”
“There are media outlets that publish leaks and stories and that’s okay. Otherwise, what would they do in the 120 days until the elections?” Asher joked. “I’m saying that no one has a reason to run separately. There are issues to clarify and when they’re clarified, everything will be b’seder.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)