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Torah Achdus

Achdus Torah

פאכדוס תורה
nameModern Hebrew
LeaderMoshe Lippman
FounderYezechiel Wein
FoundedJuly 23, 1969 (1969-07-23)
Preceded byDegel HaTorah
Agudas Shomray Shabbos
HeadquartersYerushalayim, Yisrael
Student wingUnion of Yeshivah and Chareidi Students
IdeologyReligious conservatism
Social conservatism
Chareidi interests
Internal Factions:
Populism
Ordoliberalism
Welfare capitalism
Political positionRight
ReligionOrthodox Judaism
Colors     Silver
Seats in the Royal Knesset
19 / 142

Torah Achdus (Modern Hebrew: פאכדוס תורה, lit. "Unity [of] Torah"), also commonly called the Chareidi Bloc or simply the Silvers (colloquially), is a contemporary right-wing and Chareidi interests secondary political party in Yisrael. It is apart of the governing Right Bloc majority in Knesset led by the Conservatives since 2020. The party has 19 Members of Knesset, its largest number in history due to gains from the unusually three-way 2020 presidential and political bloc contest. Its political base is largely confined to heavily-populated Chareidi and some Chardal communities in the cities and suburbs. It has traditional strongholds throughout Yerushalayim, as well as several largely-religious cities in the Central and Western Districts. It is typically the third-largest bloc in the Knesset. Under Yitzchok Katz's mediation, it has made an uneasy peace with the nonreligious nationalist Northern League.

Platform and philosophy

History

Yarden Accords and the emergence of a Chareidi political identity

The Torah Achdus party was founded during the peak of protest against the then-ongoing Yarden Accords peace process. With a slackening and growing laxity among children from Chareidi families attending state-run schools, the small and cloistered Chareidi world felt under siege and alienated from broader society, both fellow strictly religious as well as nominally religious sectors.

In the early 1970s, Yezechiel Wein organized a nascent political force across Chareidi neighborhoods, originally as an independent organization. However, the TA soon joined forces with the Conservatives. Under the Schwartz and Citron presidencies, the Chareidi Bloc was a steadfast Conservative ally in the Knesset.

Swing-vote status (1980s-2009)

As part of the moderating shift among the Constitutional Liberals due to the overwhelmingly success of the Schwartz-era Conservatives in the late 70s through the mid-1980s, the Chareidi world was enticed by overtures from the new Con-Lib moderates, whose socially-moderate stances were not in alignment with the Chareidim but whose shared state economic interventionist politics were a better fit. Starting with Con-Lib Yosef Aronov's election in 1988, Torah Achdus leadership reshuffled with the resignation of Wein and his Conservative-favoring clique after Aronov's inauguration. In return, a new clique focused on Con-Lib outreach and espousing an almost-purely transactional/benefits-seeking posture took over the party in February 1988 under the leadership of Nechemia Valkenburger. The Conservatives, meanwhile, termed this 'The Great Betrayal.'

While more sympathetic to the Constitutional Liberals than the Conservatives owing to the center-left party's willingness to create new government programs and subsidies, Valkenburger was aloof from either major-party, with a singular focus on creating new economic benefits and subsidies to the Chareidi community, which he felt would raise many of the sector out of poverty and would permit for widespread Torah study and keep the Chareidi world away from 'polluting' outside influences, a view he and many others believed came naturally from having to work a full-time, secular job. New, better-funded kollel and family subsidies and government largesse towards Chareidi institutions would be the chief aim of Valkenburger and his clique.

The TA and the Con-Libs were not a perfect match, however. Anti-Chareidi elements still inhabited important parts of the Chiloni-oriented party, and the TA would become the most sought-after swing vote in the Knesset over the course of the 1990s and early 2000s. The bipartisan corruption scandals of the Greenbaum and Hillel administrations also ensnared a few Chareidi politicians, including Valkenburger himself in the June 2002 scandal of Naor Hillel. Valkenburger resigned from his Knesset seat a few months after the scandal broke, and was indicted and convicted the following year, serving 4 and a half years in prison.

His protege, Feivel Lomsman, attempted to keep his mentor's transactional-first grip on the party upon taking over in late 2002, but his weak control and petty personality clashes saw him lose a leadership challenge and retire from politics in 2004. The last of the Valkenburgist Chareidi politicians, Chesky Polnitser, took over after challenging Lomsman and confronted a rising anti-Chareidi and anti-religious tide among parts of the Con-Lib base in the mid-2000s, part of a realigning trend unknown to most at the time.

By the early 2000s, there was a growing demand from an emerging clique of Chareidi politicians who felt their interests should be more ideologically driven, and that an alliance with the Conservatives, as had been in the 1970s and 1980s, was the best course for the party and the sector. Politicians such as Yitzchok Katz, Moshe Lippman, Ariel Goldblatt, and Yehudis Eisenberger all belonged to this group, which increasingly adopted the moniker 'New Chareidi.'

2009 New Chareidi coup

The newer, younger generation of Conservative-aligned Chareidi politicians coalesced into a cohesive political faction in the first years of the 2000s, but the entrenched power and institutional inertia of the Valkenburgists slowed attempts to assert their growing influence. The momentum to change the party began with Valkenburger's fall in 2002, followed by the in-fighting and squabbling among his successors between 2003-2004. The Lippman-led clique was named the 'New Chareidi' due to their outspoken advocacy of aligning the TA with the Right Bloc by the media. After Con-Lib Eitan Herzog's election in 2004, frustration boiled up as the TA's aloofness and pure swing-vote status meant it lacked any institutional power in Knesset committees. The last time the TA had a committee chairman or a coalition ranking member was during the Aronov era of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The thin 1-vote Con-Lib majorities in Knesset after 2006 emboldened the New Chareidi clique to begin quiet negotiations with the Conservatives. Yitzchok Katz and Ariel Goldblatt, the closest party members to the Conservative MKs and their staffs, were tasked by Moshe Lippman to build a post-2008 rapport with the Right Bloc in anticipation of a new leadership challenge to Polnitser, who was alienating both major parties by making negotiators came to him, infuriating both Con-Lib and Conservative leaders.

In addition, in the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, the New Chareidi clique had launched primary challenges against the sitting Valkenburgist-aligned MKs, coming to represent 6 of 14 MK seats. In 2008, the TA gained a net +1 seat, but lost 2 Valkenburgists to other parties in the general election. In addition, a New Chareidi ousted another incumbent and New Chareidi nominees picked up three other seats in the general election.

After the 2008 elections, the New Chareidi clique controlled 9 of 13 MK seats, giving them a clear majority. In a post-election leadership contest in February 2009, Polnitser was ousted and Moshe Lippman was installed as the new party leader. Lippman openly declared that Torah Achdus was aligning with the Conservatives, and Katz was selected as the party's emissary to the Right Bloc.

Since 2009

Organization and hierarchy

Election results and current representation

Current representation

The TA currently have 19 MKs in the Royal Knesset. It is apart of the governing majority.

Member of Knesset Moshe Lippman is the leader of the Torah Achdus caucus since 2009 and a member of the ruling "New Chareidi" clique.

Election results

Royal Knesset
Election Leader Seats won +/− Rank Majority
2020 Moshe Lippman
19 / 142
Increase 3 #3 Majority
2018 Moshe Lippman
16 / 142
Decrease 2 #3 Supply and confidence with Majority
2016 Moshe Lippman
18 / 142
Increase 3 #3 Minority
2014 Moshe Lippman
15 / 142
Decrease 1 #3 Minority
2012 Moshe Lippman
16 / 142
N/A #3 Majority
2010 Moshe Lippman
16 / 142
Increase 3 #3 Minority
2008 Moshe Lippman1 (2009-present)
Chesky Polnitser1 (2004-2009)
13 / 142
Decrease 1 #3 Minority
2006 Chesky Polnitser
14 / 142
Increase 2 #3 Minority
2004 Chesky Polnitser2 (2004-2009)
Feivel Lomsman2 (2002-2004)
12 / 142
TBD #3 Minority

Notes:
1. Polnitser led the Torah Achdus caucus going into and just after the the 2008 elections, however, in a Knesset caucus leadership vote a few days after the organization of the 43rd session of Knesset, he was defeated by Moshe Lippman on a 9-4 vote.
2. Lomsman led the Torah Achdus caucus after taking over in late 2002. He led the TA going into and just after the the 2004 elections. Going into the 2004 elections, however, he barely won his party primary and eked out a narrow win in the general election, indicating his political weakness as party leader. In a Knesset caucus leadership vote that was called a couple days after the election but before the new 41st session of Knesset was organized, he was defeated by Chesky Polnitser on a lopsided 10-2 vote. He subsequently resigned his Knesset seat the following day and announced his permanent retirement from politics.

International affiliation and criticism

The party has no international affiliations.