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What lies behind ultra-Orthodox embrace of Labor leader?

Shas Party Chairman Aryeh Deri’s announcement of support for Isaac Herzog in his run for prime minister may be just spin, but it does reflect the deep political shifts underway among the ultra-Orthodox.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men stand around a car during a mass prayer in Jerusalem March 2, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews held a mass prayer in Jerusalem on Sunday in protest at a bill that would cut their community's military exemptions and end a tradition upheld since Israel's foundation.   REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3FWQW

No matter where he went over the past few days, Knesset member Isaac “Buji” Herzog, chairman of the Labor Party, found himself surrounded by the heads of the ultra-Orthodox factions in the Knesset. They hailed him and they praised him, telling anyone who would only listen that he was their candidate for prime minister.

In the midst of the turbulent struggles between the coalition and the opposition in the Knesset, which is going on recess next week, attention focused March 11 on the warming relationship between Herzog and the ultra-Orthodox parties. The image presented to the media, largely by the ultra-Orthodox themselves, was that a new political alliance had been forged between the chairman of the Labor Party and the ultra-Orthodox, who turned their back on the right and on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What really happened is much more complex.

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