Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and ultra-Orthodox MKs exchanged barbs on Tuesday in the latest escalation in rhetoric as a new government that will see the Haredi parties head into the opposition for the first time in almost a decade is set to be approved early next week.
Shas head Arye Deri denounced the crystalizing coalition agreements that were released on Monday as an attempt to "pry religion from the state" and said that the country was "in danger."
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chief Mosh Gafni called the agreement an "act of villainy" and "blasphemous."
Gafni went on to question the adherence of Bennett, an observant Jew, to Judaism and called on Yamina voters "to cast out and boycott" the party's lawmakers.
"We shall shake the Earth and the heavens in opposition to this man who is supposedly a yarmulke wearer, who we knew from the get-go that this is what he wanted, he wants an anti-religious government," he said.
UTJ co-leader Yaakov Litzman called Bennett a "Reformist", referring to Reform Judaism — a religious movement that has modified or abandoned many traditional Jewish beliefs, laws, and practices in an effort to adapt Judaism to the changed social, political, and cultural conditions of the modern world.
He then called on the destined prime minister to "take off his yarmulke, for he disgraces it" and stated that the new government will not preserve the status quo on state-religion affairs.
Using the moniker of "Designated Prime Minister" for the first time, Bennett issued a statement in which he regretted the attacks against him and hit back at his detractors.
"Only a year ago, when the current unity government was formed, Yamina stayed out of it, and the ultra-Orthodox joined. You didn’t see me call on Gafni to take off his yarmulke. There was a government, we weren't a part of it, and the sun shined in the morning," Bennett wrote.
"The Haredi MKs won't teach what Judaism is, and certainly not what Zionism is. As prime minister, I will care for the ultra-Orthodox public and the Torah world. To the ultra-Orthodox citizens of the country, I say again: You have nothing to worry about, quite the opposite. This last year has shown that you are the ones who pay the price, even with your own lives, for a political culture of neglect, nepotism and the perpetuation of problems."
Bennett also said that the attacks against him will not stop him or the emerging government from forming a state commission of inquiry into the Mount Meron disaster, in which 45 people — mostly ultra-Orthodox men — perished in a stampede during Lag BaOmer festivities in late April.
The tragic event, which is the biggest civilian disaster in Israeli history, is believed to have stemmed from dilapidated infrastructure that was neglected after years of political bickering between different ultra-Orthodox leaders.
"If the intention of these hysterical outbursts is to deter us from forming a state commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster — this won't work. Forty-five Israeli citizens have lost their lives. Someone must provide answers."