Agudat Yisrael Official Quits Post, Citing Failure to Carry out Pledges

Rabbi Moshe Ze’ev Feldman, leader of the Agudat Yisrael party’s Knesset faction, resigned Tuesday as deputy minister of labor and social affairs.

He said he was quitting because of the government’s failure to carry out pledges on religion-related issues.

But political observers do not expect the five-member Agudah faction to desert the coalition government.

Although Feldman ran the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, its titular head is Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

The ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael has belonged to Likud-led coalition governments since 1977, but has always declined full Cabinet responsibility, for ideological reasons. That may be changing, and some observers believe Agudah will demand a full Cabinet replacement for Feldman.

The speculation has been linked to the name of industrialist Avraham Shapiro, who headed the Agudah Knesset faction until 1988, when he stepped aside for Feldman. Both men represent the Gur Hasidic movement, which is the largest single bloc in the party.

Shapiro can be appointed a Cabinet minister without being a Knesset member, but not a deputy minister.

Feldman, a yeshiva dean from Bnei Brak, is expected to stay on in the Knesset. But he has been visibly unhappy during his brief political career.

Political insiders say he resigned because he felt his own Gur bloc was not giving him the backing to which he felt entitled.

Feldman dwelt on “spiritual reasons.” He accused Likud of failure to keep promises on matters such as “immodest” advertising and the inclusion of some religion in the curricula of the secular school system.

He dismissed speculation that Agudah might accept a Cabinet seat. “Our sages will not allow it,” he said.

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