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Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties to continue partnership in upcoming elections

FILE: Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is also chairman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, speaks to journalists after handing in his resignation to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.
(Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP)

Israel's ultra-Orthodox political parties, Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah, decided on Wednesday to continue running on a joint slate in the upcoming elections as United Torah Judaism.

Degel Hatorah, which represents the Lithuanian segment of ultra-Orthodox Jews, ran separately from Agudat Yisrael in the most recent local government elections, winning twice as much representation in Jerusalem.

The two parties agreed on Wednesday to share power equally under the leadership of Israeli deputy health minister, Yaakov Litzman.

“We are the first faction to end its internal debate. We can now, with the help of God, embark on the election with an equitable agreement,” Degel Hatorah’s leader Moshe Gafni said.

Litzman echoed Gafni, saying the joint list will end up with even more seats in the parliament, with the “help of heaven.”

According to a poll by Hadashot TV on Wednesday, United Torah Judaism would seven seats, one seat up from the previous elections in 2015.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would win 32 seats, far ahead of Yesh Atid, which would get 14 seats.

AP Photo/Uriel Sinai, Pool

Newly established Hosen L'Yisrael (Israel Resilience) party headed by former IDF chief of staff, Benny Gantz, is Netanyahu’s top challenger for the premiership. However, according to Hadashot’s poll Gantz party would get 13 seats.

Avi Gabbay’s Labor party would receive nine seats, while Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s newly formed Hayamin He-Hadash ("The New Right") party would get 8 seats.

Ultra-Orthodox Shas party and the secular nationalist Yisrael Beytenu, led by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, would both get six seats.

The Joint Arab List would get six seats while its former member, Ahmad Tibi, who created a new party as well, would also win six seats.

Lastly, left-wing Meretz party would win five seats, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party four, while both former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon’s new Telem party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party would fail to clear the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Perhaps the biggest change from the last election is downfall of Labor and Hatnuah, which up until January 2 ran together on a joint list as Zionist Union.

The Zionist Union faction had been the second-largest party in Israel's recently dissolved parliament, earning 24 seats in the last election.

According to a report by Haaretz on Monday, Yesh Atid’s leader, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, have have met on the subject of forming an alliance several times in the last week.

“Without relating to this or that meeting, it’s no secret that Livni is in favor of connections between parties and forming one large bloc to create a turnover (of the government),” officials in Hatnua told Haaretz. Yesh Atid officials were quoted as saying the meetings were “excellent, and many more will come.”

According to the report, Livni is considering joining Yesh Atid and standing aside to let Lapid occupy the number one spot on a unified list, which is reportedly a priority for him.

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What else can they do? Unity is power

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