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Israel’s new finance minister up against ultra-Orthodox

The new finance minister-to-be Avigdor Liberman pushes with all his political might to exclude the ultra-Orthodox from the new government.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, Jerusalem, Nov. 14, 2018.

As chair of the Yisrael Beitenu party, one of Avigdor Liberman’s demands for joining the new coalition was that it does not include the ultra-Orthodox parties. Liberman was largely responsible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition after the first round of elections two years ago. Already back then, forming a government without the ultra-Orthodox was a banner issue for Liberman. The same is true now. After the most recent election in March, he fought tooth and nail against efforts by Yamina leader Naftali Bennett and especially New Hope party leader Gideon Saar to include the ultra-Orthodox into the new coalition. In the end, Liberman got what he wanted, at least for the moment.

As a first step for distancing the ultra-Orthodox, Liberman introduced several clauses into the coalition agreement, realizing that the ultra-Orthodox parties would deem them problematic. These included a requirement for ultra-Orthodox schools supported by the state to teach a core curriculum (English, math and sciences); the operation of public transportation and the opening of supermarkets on the Sabbath; support for the Western Wall agreement, which would create an official space for Reform and Conservative Jews to pray at the holiest site to the Jewish people; an easing of the conversion process; and the elimination of the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over kosher food supervision.

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