Friday, February 28, 2020

Naftali Bennett

(JNS) New Right Party leader Naftali Bennett said this week that his party would only join a future coalition if the religious services minister post is filled by a religious Zionist, as opposed to someone from the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, sector.

The haredi Shas Party has held the Religious Services Ministry portfolio since 2008, except for the two-year period from 2013-2015, when it was held by Bennett.

“We will return the religious portfolio to religious Zionism,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. “Our heritage and our tradition need to become the glue of unity, not a battleground. We must bring back approachable Judaism—on kashrut, on marriage, on everything.”

The religious services minister oversees the budget for state-funded synagogues and rabbis, ritual baths, conversion courts, life-cycle events and kashrut supervision. National religious figures are often seen as less stringent on many of these issues compared to the ultra-Orthodox.

Bennett issued a similar ultimatum in 2015, but did not follow through, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Shas head Aryeh Deri to the post.

Bennett and New Right No. 2 Ayelet Shaked have campaigned in the recent election cycles with the goal of bridging between the secular and religious right. A more flexible religious services minister, they believe, might be better able to bring together the two sectors of Israeli society.

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