Skip to main content

Ultra-Orthodox-Netanyahu alliance threatened by COVID-19

The alliance of the ultra-Orthodox with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to turn against them, as the public at large blames them for spreading the coronavirus.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman give a joint press conference regarding preparations and new regulations for the coronavirus, at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem on March 4, 2020. (Photo by GALI TIBBON / AFP) (Photo by GALI TIBBON/AFP via Getty Images)

Just last month, ultra-Orthodox Yahadut HaTorah Chairman Yaakov Litzman resigned from the government and gave up his post as housing minister. The move came in protest of the decision to place the country under closure during the fall holiday season. On Oct. 12, he returned to the government and his old Cabinet position, with the new title of deputy housing minister. It was part of a larger deal that the ultra-Orthodox parties made with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Deputy Minister of Housing Itzik Cohen from ultra-Orthodox Shas was promoted to the position of minister in the Finance Ministry and minister of Housing, while Litzman returned to the Housing Ministry as deputy.

If anything, this reshuffling of Cabinet seats is evidence of a robust alliance between Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties. Like any alliance, it has seen its own set of challenges. When Netanyahu formed his third coalition, back in 2013, he had to contend with the “covenant of brothers” forged between Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett. The two men agreed that their parties would not join Netanyahu’s new government unless Netanyahu abandoned his ultra-Orthodox allies. He did, but the new coalition was relatively short-lived.

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 per year.