With a narrow 61-seat majority in the 120 seat Israeli Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition is pretty much constantly on the brink of collapse, and every perceived slight to any party, or even to a couple of MPs, could quickly escalate into a vote of no confidence and a push for fresh elections.
The latest possible reason, however, comes as a surprise, as Netanyahu’s dinner at an Italian restaurant during his state visit to Italy, where he dined with Italian PM Matteo Renzi, has fueled a serious divide between the PM and ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.
The Florentine restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiorri, serves some non-kosher entrees, and that’s not sitting well with United Torah Judaism (UTJ), which accused Netanyahu of “openly mocking” the religious parties in Israel by eating at such a restaurant, though Netanyahu maintains he didn’t eat anything non-kosher while he was there.
Of course, most Italian restaurants would, by the nature of Italian cuisine, have some non-kosher entrees available, but the UTJ maintains that it is inappropriate for a sitting Israeli PM to eat at such a restaurant in an official capacity.
This is the second time Netanyahu has faced such a restaurant-based controversy in less than a year, as during last year’s visit to New York to address the UN, he had lunch with pro-war billionaire Sheldon Adelson at Fresco by Scotto, a Manhattan restaurant which similarly wasn’t kosher. At the time, the ultra-Orthodox press condemned him for dining at “a pig restaurant.”
Roughly half of Israeli Jews don’t keep kosher, and normally it is not treated as a huge issue. Now, however, religious parties are getting quotes from a former Netanyahu housekeeper claiming the PM mixes meat and milk all the time. Odd as it may seem, this might be the straw that breaks the (non-kosher) camel’s back.
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