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Yisrael Beytenu president Avigdor Liberman insisted on Tuesday that the focus of the upcoming elections is the influence of haredi and religious political parties on future government and "religious coercion."
He accused the Haredi parties of "extorting" the right-wing governments and said Yisrael Beytenu was the only party able to prevent it from happening again.
Former Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Moshe Gafni reacted late in the day, accusing Liberman of serving his personal political interests and describing leader Yisrael Beytenu as "a parasite" and "a hypocrite."
Liberman famous – or infamous – alone prevented the formation of a right-wing government after the last election due to its position on the haredi enlistment legislation, and is now looking to secure its image as a defender of religious freedom within a right-wing government as an election move before new elections in September.
"The current election campaign is about whether the right-wing bloc will become the haredi bloc with Yisrael Beytenu outside the coalition, or whether a nationalist, right-wing and liberal government will be established with Yisrael Beytenu." Liberman wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
But he also looked not only at the haredi parties but also at the Union of Right-wing Parties (URP) and its extremist elements, saying that if the party won only two more seats, there would have been a coalition, "including MKs. Orit Struck, [Itamar] Ben-Gvir, [Bezalel] Smotrich, [Ya’acov] Litzman, [Arye] Deri and [Moshe] Gafni, "appointing the most radical members and national and religious candidates of the Knesset as well as the Haredi political leaders.
"Only Yisrael Beytenu can prevent a situation in which a right-wing government is extorted by messianic haredim," he continued.
"Whoever wants the State of Israel to continue in the path of sanity and balanced, responsible and liberal policies, especially related to religion and the state, should vote in Yisrael Beytenu. We will not allow continued religious coercion and the attempt to change the status quo. "
Gafni did not restrain himself in his reply, which came in an interview with the Haredi radio station Kol Hai.
"Liberman is a hypocrite," Gafni said. "What interests him is his personal interest. He is a parasite and we hope and pray that he does not exceed the electoral threshold and that he does not [again] be the deciding factor [in the formation of a coalition].
Gafni also repeated the UTJ's promise not to sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid or its leader Yair Lapid, although he declined to say whether the boycott party Yisrael Beytenu, despite recent rhetoric.
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