Skip to main content

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox tied to Netanyahu

Without an alliance between them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be able to form the next government and the ultra-Orthodox might find themselves in the opposition.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri are seen at the end of a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RC163EB70890

In the days preceding the dissolution of the Knesset in late May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checked with the heads of the ultra-Orthodox parties to see whether they would back this move. While Chairman of Yisrael Beitenu Avigdor Liberman was adding more and more obstacles to the coalition negotiations, Netanyahu was preparing for the possibility that he would not have a government by the legal deadline. That was when the option of dissolving the Knesset was first put openly on the table in the most concrete terms. “He didn’t want to reach a situation in which the president asks [Blue and White head] Benny Gantz to form a government, and was concerned that the Likud might do something to remove him. That was why he wanted to make sure that we would support his decision to dissolve the Knesset under any circumstances. We promised him that we were right there with him,” a senior official from ultra-Orthodox party Shas told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.

Everyone knows what happened next. Despite all assessments, on the night of May 30, the Knesset took the unprecedented step of dissolving itself just one month after its members were sworn in. There were 74 Knesset members, including 16 from ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and Yahadut HaTorah, who kept their promise to Netanyahu and voted to support the dissolution of the Knesset. The generous coalition agreements, which were supposed to be signed with them, included billions of shekels and numerous positions of power in the government and Knesset committees. All at once, these agreements were junked.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.