Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Knesset Committee Authorizes Split in UTJ
By Eliezer Rauchberger

By Eliezer Rauchberger

The Knesset House Committee unanimously approved the split of United Torah Jewry into two separate parties and notified the plenum of the decision. UTJ has now been replaced by the two- man party Degel HaTorah and the three-man party Agudas Yisroel. The split is primarily a political, technical move reflecting problems in operations in the Knesset, and not an ideological one.

Following consultations with gedolei Yisroel shlita, MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz and MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni announced that they had decided to transform Degel HaTorah into an independent Knesset faction.

In a letter to Knesset House Committee Chairman MK Roni Bar- On notifying him of the UTJ split, Rabbi Ravitz wrote, "MKs Avrohom Ravitz and Moshe Gafni, members of the Agudat Hachareidim—Degel HaTorah Party, will form an independent party in the Knesset known as Degel HaTorah."

The letter also states, "When the candidate list was submitted to the Knesset, the Central Election Committee Chairman was given an agreement regarding the union of the parties." Before UTJ's formation Degel HaTorah was listed as an independent party and received separate funding.

Independent parties make their own decisions on day-to-day issues and have their own quota of agenda motions, legislative motions, questions, committee membership, a party room, an assistance staff, a party chairman, etc. The decision only applies to the current term. A second decision will be made in the future.

Rabbi Ravitz emphasized that this decision has no impact on the coalition agreement signed with the Likud and that Degel HaTorah will continue to be coalition members as per instructions by Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah according to the terms established before the coalition agreement was signed.

MKs Rabbi Ravitz and Rabbi Gafni explained that the decision to set up a separate party followed the conduct shown by MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman and his decision to accept a post as Finance Committee Chairman just one day after the new government was formed. "The decision of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah that we would enter the coalition on a conditional basis was in order to certify and clarify that suitable and necessary solutions would be found both in the area of regulating religious services and preserving the independence and uniqueness of the chareidi education system. Rabbi Litzman's move harmed and harms these efforts and finding solutions to the difficult ideological problems chareidi Jewry faces. Therefore, if they harm the difficult and necessary struggle on the issue of religion and chareidi education, we cannot continue to function as a single party."

The two Degel HaTorah MKs also said the decision was preceded by a UTJ meeting at which Rabbis Ravitz and Gafni asked Rabbi Litzman not to assume the post of Finance Committee chairman immediately, but to wait until the Prime Minister's coalition pledges regarding religious services and chareidi education were carried out as part of efforts to ensure their implementation.

Rabbi Litzman, however, claimed that because Agudas Yisroel's three representatives comprise a majority of the party they could and should make party decisions based on their majority vote. The Degel HaTorah representatives contend, "Until now, when there were disputes on various internal party issues or various non-ideological issues in the Knesset, we would restrain ourselves and hold our tongues and agree to be insulted by having him constantly decide and ignore our position. But now, when speaking of an ideological and substantive issue, a crucial matter of principle related to guaranteeing religious services and the independence of chareidi education, we can no longer remain silent and were left with no alternative other than to set up an independent party, Degel HaTorah, in which we will make our own decisions, and he will continue to make his decisions in his party.

"In any case, for a long time now, we have been working and operating as two separate factions with differing opinions and stances on almost every single issue. So if until now we were separate parties de facto, now we will also be de jure. This move simply reflects what has been happening in practice for a long time. Unfortunately we were unable to continue our activity as a unified party, both in practice and in principle, when Rabbi Litzman decides every matter and issue according to his own will and dismisses our opinion and stance entirely, as if we did not exist as party members. The accepted practice was always that when there were two opinions, we would adopt the stricter approach (lechumro). This is the way it has always been, and here this was not done and this guideline was violated."


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