Netanyahu reelection hopes jeopardized by ultra-Orthodox unrest

Premier hopes to fully vaccinate the population, open the economy so ‘the problem will be forgotten’ as days tick on toward the March 23 election

Ultra-Orthodox Jews argue with Israeli border police officers during a protest over the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, in Ashdod, Israel, January. 24, 2021. (AP/Oded Balilty)

AP — As he seeks reelection, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has turned to a straightforward strategy: Count on the rock-solid support of his ultra-Orthodox political allies and stamp out the coronavirus pandemic with one of the world’s most aggressive vaccination campaigns.

But with ultra-Orthodox communities openly flouting safety guidelines and violently clashing with police trying to enforce them, this marriage of convenience is turning into a burden. Netanyahu has watched his political partners undermine the country’s war against the virus and spark a public backlash that threatens him at the ballot box.

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