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Friday, November 23, 2007

Shas' odd position

I have said on several occasions that I believe that Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman and the Shas party led by Eli Yishai should lead their parties out of the coalition before the Annapolis conference mugging in a bid to prevent the Olmert-Barak-Livni government from putting concessions on the table which, once placed on the table, they will not be able to withdraw. After reading the latest pronouncements from Yishai, I can only wonder what motivates him.

We get a weekly magazine called Mishpacha which, as far as I am aware, is not on the Internet. It comes in Hebrew and English flavors; we get in English. This week's Mishpacha has an article that claims that the 'settlement freeze' that has been rumored - in fact it's practically a foregone conclusion except with respect to Jerusalem - is directed at Charedim (ultra-Orthodox Jews). If you look at the dynamics of Jews moving to Judea and Samaria, that makes sense: The two fastest growing towns in Judea and Samaria are Beitar Ilit in the Etzion bloc and Modiin Ilit (Kiryat Sefer) in the Modi'in area. Both of them are overwhelmingly Charedi towns. Here's what Mishpacha has to say on the subject:
On the eve of the Annapolis Middle East summit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was preparing to declare a settlement freeze, choking off further growth in these and other West Bank communities.


Reportedly, Olmert chose this concession from a short menu the Americans offered him in return for keeping the Annapolis agenda bereft of far-greater concessions on the so-called core issues - Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

However, even if Olmert were interested in tackling these far weightier matters, he would find himself weighed down by fellow party members and coalition partners.

Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak, itching for a pretext to bolt the coalition and challenge Olmert in new elections said: I was at Camp David and I saw how the Palestinians acted in its aftermath [and he kept 'negotiating' with them for another six months anyway. CiJ]. We can't begin serious negotiations with them now; Annapolis should only deal with smaller issues."

Eli Yishai, whose Shas party is also part of the coalition told Mishpacha that while he understands political gamesmanship, it does not mean that he must stifle his protests: "If Israel agrees to a settlement freeze in Yehudah and Shomron, Shas will be forced to leave the government," says Yishai.

The question remains whether Yishai will find enough like-minded Knesset members in his struggle to keep at least the chareidi settlements growing. While other coalition members object to different aspsects of Olmert's peace strategies, they are secular and are not overly concerned about housing growth in chareidi communities. Olmert's Knesset majority is large enough to afford the loss of Shas, and if no one else drops out, the chareidi communities could serve, at least temporarily as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of this latest push in the Middle East peace process.
A few observations.

1. For someone whose background is in the Kasbah's of the Middle East and not in the shtetl's of Europe, Yishai plays politics like he's in the shtetl. He reminds me of a certain publication in New York that insists that every election in the US is decided by how the Jews in Boro Park (a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York) votes. He has no grounding in reality. He doesn't understand his party's position in the general population.

2. While the population of Judea and Samaria is overwhelmingly (but not entirely) religious, it is ridiculous to suggest that the targets of the 'settlement freeze' are specifically Beitar Ilit and Kiryat Sefer, both of which are part of the 'settlement blocs' that the government has stated for several years now that it would retain in any arrangement with the 'Palestinians.'

3. On the other hand, it is equally ridiculous to suggest that those two towns will be 'sacrificial lambs' for the 'peace process' as if they are the only places in Judea and Samaria whose growth would be frozen. There is no way in the world that a 'settlement freeze' in Judea and Samaria would relate only to those two towns, and to imply that it would - and to thereby justify remaining in the government unless and until it happens - reflects precisely the kind of parochial interest often expressed by the Charedi parties here that everyone else finds infuriating.

4. It sounds like Yishai's biggest fear is that Shas will withdraw from the government and it won't be enough to make the government fall. Somehow, it apparently never occurred to Yishai to try to coordinate with Lieberman (who is secular) or that even if he doesn't coordinate with Lieberman, if Shas leaves, Lieberman might follow. Or maybe he doesn't want to leave the government badly enough.

5. I don't think much more proof is needed that Shas is in the government for money and ministries - there is no connection to principles. I always thought that having principles was what being religious was all about. Silly me!


At 7:24 PM, Blogger nava said...

very powerful article. Unfortunately, many don't see the truth or cannot deal with the truth. Shas party is just as dangerous as Abu Mazen - they both don't say what is on their mind and silently weave disaster - that's most dangerous.
One might think that Abu Mazen is the enemy, because he is an Arab but truth is Shas is the worser enemy, because they are Jews!


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