Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Yisrael Eichler argued on Wednesday that the ultra-Orthodox sector “ha[s] no rights at all.”
"We live in a country where we have no rights at all. All we have is paying taxes, property taxes and fulfilling societal obligations," he said during a conference of his ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party (UTJ), held in Jerusalem ahead of the municipal elections at month's end.
Eichler also voiced veiled criticism of his party leader, Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf. "They aren’t building for the Haredi public. Not in Jerusalem, Ashdod or Beit Shemesh. There is extensive construction in Beit Shemesh, but there are still serious issues there."
Eichler's remarks sparked criticism and raised eyebrows, especially given recent coalition agreements with the Haredi parties which have facilitated several budget allocations to ultra-Orthodox institutions, resulting in cuts to welfare and defense spending, and as Haredi lawmakers aim to advance a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men from military service.
In response to Eichler's statements, MK Yulia Malinovsky of the Yisrael Beytenu Party mockingly posted on X (formerly Twitter), "Looking to buy tickets for MK Eichler’s stand-up show. Does anyone know where I can get them?"
Eichler's office chose declined to comment on his remarks, but UTJ insiders expressed their surprise at the blowback caused by his words and well-known stances.
Eichler is no stranger to controversial statements, the latest of which came last month, when the deputy Knesset speaker expressed strikingly anti-Zionist views after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to travelers visiting the city of Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah.
A statement from Netanyahu's office at the time said, "God has not always protected us, neither on the soil of Europe nor Ukraine" – to which Eichler responded by denouncing Netanyahu's words as "ignorant" and asserted that the Nazis were stopped from conquering Israel by "miracle of miracles," not by Zionism.
"For over a century, the God of Israel has been saving the Land of Israel from the grip of power idols, wicked culture and the assimilation of the secular regime," he argued. "Neither the Zionists nor the partisans prevented the Holocaust in Europe," he added, and accused the Zionists of "turning their backs on Diaspora Jews."
Eichler's response drew considerable outrage, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum also denounced it, stating that the remarks were "baseless and offensive words."