The Jerusalem Post
Yahad leaders MKs Eli Yishai and Yoni Chetboun visited Kfar Chabad on Monday to try and advance the party’s efforts to attract votes from the Chabad community, after derogatory comments made by the party’s spiritual patron Rabbi Meir Mazuz against the hassidic group were aired earlier this week.
Dudi Shomenfeld, the seventh-placed candidate on Yahad’s list, said that he and the party leaders were very warmly received at Kfar Chabad, and argued that the party’s principles were more in line with the Chabad community than the mainstream haredi parties.
Chabad voters take a hawkish line on issues of security and diplomacy in line with the instructions of the Rebbe of the hassidic group, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to preserve the unity of the Land of Israel, and Yahad has strongly courted the group, boasting of its hardline positions on diplomatic issues.
Although much of the Chabad community traditionally votes for the mainstream haredi Ashkenazi party United Torah Judaism, small numbers also vote for hard-right national-religious parties as well.
“The Rebbe said we must preserve the unity of the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel,” Shomenfeld told The Jerusalem Post.
No haredi party before Yahad has ever waved these three principles on its banner.
The Rebbe also wanted unity between all religious and haredi parties and this is the first time in history we have one party bringing all the different communities and streams of [Orthodox] Judaism together, it is the realization of the Rebbe’s instructions.”
Yahad has repeatedly highlighted the fact that both traditional mainstream parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have refused to explicitly recommend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government, and have threatened to back the Center-Left political block instead.
By contrast, Yishai has repeatedly said that he will back Netanyahu after the elections to form a coalition.
Shomenfeld, a haredi journalist and activist for haredi youth who have dropped out of the yeshiva system, said that despite recent statements by Shas political and rabbinic leaders that they will in all likelihood support Netanyahu, their public declarations on the issue were no longer reliable because of their previous comments.
“I know one thing, they have never promised to go with the Right. Now perhaps they are thinking about it because they can see the erosion of their support, but are they saying this out of conviction or in order to claw back votes?” Shomenfeld said.
Yishai and his party have expressed extremely hawkish views on diplomatic issues and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for a peace agreement, repeating that they will leave a government that even enters into negotiations.
Efforts by Yahad to attract Chabad voters were dealt a setback earlier this week when a recording from 2000 was aired by news site NRG in which the party’s spiritual leader, Mazuz, spoke out harshly against Chabad, regarding a dispute with the communal leadership over an issue of Jewish law.
Mazuz said that, “They know nothing. They’re ignoramuses… they think the Torah was given by the Rebbe,” he said in reference to Schneerson.
“Every generation the Rebbe is renewed,” Mazuz said of Chabad beliefs. “They write empty words; words of nonsense, words of heresy, words of idiocy, harmful words; they write with cheek, with blasphemy.”
Shomenfeld said that Mazuz was actually referring to a specific figure at the fringes of the Chabad community and noted that Mazuz enjoys a close relationship with the Chabad leadership, and had corresponded with and visited Schneerson in New York.
He said that the intended purpose of leaking the recording was to try and draw back Chabad voters to UTJ but that the effort had backfired, since the Chabad community was well aware of Mazuz’s respect for the Rebbe and his warm relationship with the hassidic group.