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January 25, 2013 1:04 am

Naftali Bennett: Time for Change in Status Quo in Religion and State

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Naftali Bennett. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The day after the new Israeli party Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) won 12 Knesset seats, party leader Naftali Bennett called for a change in the status quo in the relationship between religion and state in Israel.

Bennett made his comments at his first party meeting after the elections, on Wednesday in Tel Aviv. Bennett the meeting as an opportunity to put the issue of religion and state on the table, an issue he considers urgent issue and hopes to work on while in the Knesset.

“We tripled our power from previous elections,” Bennett said, according to Israel Hayom. “We united. On all issues of religion and state there has been a status quo for decades. I think it’s time to open up all the issues of religion and state, to sit and have a dialogue about them, with mutual respect for all the factions, to find a new, complete way to deal with this matter.”

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Bennett’s proposal would run into fierce opposition from the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, if they were to enter into coalition negotiations. The accepted wisdom in the political arena is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will try to form a government that includes both Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid first, but would also want to add the ultra-Orthodox.

Bennett said he would consider adding Sunday as a day of rest in addition to Shabbat.

“We need to at least be open to discussion,” Bennett said. “This is the role of religious Zionism in my opinion, and of Habayit Hayehudi, to act as a bridge. On the one hand, we live in the real world, serving in the military and working; on the other hand, we live in the Torah world. That’s our role and I think that only Habayit Hayehudi will know how to do that.”

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