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Monday, November 28, 2011

Shas' Yitzchak Vaknin spends the Sabbath in Geneva

Every once in a while, one of the local handouts that gets put in our mailbox for free has some blogworthy news. This is one of those times.

Shas MK Yitzchak Vaknin spent the weekend in Geneva this past weekend at a gathering of the Geneva Initiative, according to the local edition of Merkaz HaInyanim (the Middle of the Affairs). According to its mission statement, the Geneva Initiative
provides realistic and achievable solutions on all issues, based on previous official negotiations, international resolutions, the Quartet Roadmap, Clinton Parameters, Bush Vision, and Arab Peace Initiative.
In other words, they favor the dismemberment of the State of Israel in favor of a 'Palestinian state' that will not recognize the Jewish state of Israel.

So what is an MK from a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party whose voters are Right wingers doing there? Good question.

The conference in Geneva, marking the 8th anniversary of the creation of the Geneva Initiative, was convened by Ahmadinejad groupie Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss Foreign Minister (Merkaz haInyanim says she's now the head of the Swiss government; if so that's a step up). Those attending included the usual suspects - Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abd Rabbo (the founders of the Geneva Initiative), Vinegar the Son of Wine Burg - and two honored guests from Shas: Attorney David Glass and Deputy Knesset Speaker and MK Yitzchak Vaknin.

Glass has apparently already said that it would take a 'psychological investigation' to understand Prime Minister Netanyahu, so his attendance is not a great surprise. But Merkaz HaInyanim attributes Vaknin's attendance to fear within Shas that Aryeh Deri - the former head of Shas and a convicted felon (bribery) whose ten-year ban from politics has just ended - will siphon off votes in an upcoming election. According to Merkaz HaInyanim, Vaknin told the attendees that he was there because "the peace agreement that Israel will eventually sign will look like the Geneva Initiative anyway."

Among the Geneva Initiative's provisions are 'Palestinian' control of Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount, and a formula that would require Israel to absorb as many 'Palestinian refugees' as the average country around it absorbs - potentially thousands.

According to Merkaz HaInyanim, Vaknin confirmed that he participated in the conference (which is also confirmed by the picture above), but declined to elaborate on the conference's contents.

According to Merkaz HaInyanim, the governing coalition is shocked that Shas would raise the level of its participation in the Geneva Initiative and Merkaz HaInyanim attributes the participation to a real fear of Deri and a concomitant desire to be seen as a 'centrist' party. Of course, the real shock ought to be that Shas is participating at all. But then, this isn't the first time that Shas has participated through Vaknin in a Geneva Initiative event.
As part of the fourth cycle of the Geneva Initiative's political training course, a meeting took place with Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yitzhak Vaknin from Shas. MK Vaknin participated earlier this year in a seminar for senior members of the Shas party and Fatah officials in Budapest, a seminar which received widespread coverage in the international and Haredi press.

During his lecture to course participants, Vaknin presented his opinions and analysis on the current political situation, while also addressing the complexity of the issue among Shas Party members and activists.

Regarding the peace process, MK Vaknin said: "the longer we wait, the higher price we will pay. Everyone talks about leadership, but what we are really missing is bravery." Addressing Foreign Minister Lieberman's comments that Abu Mazen represents the largest obstacle to peace, and that he hopes for the Palestinian leader's resignation, Vaknin said: "Even if Abu Mazen leaves his seat, it does not matter who fills it - we will still need to talk to them. A different Palestinian leadership will not change reality. We need to move forward."
Shas' Knesset list is set by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. One can only wonder whether the Rabbi has signed off on Vaknin's activities. More importantly though, unlike the Ashkenazi Haredi parties' voters - nearly all of whom are Haredi - Shas has attracted voters who are not Haredi due to its usually hawkish positions. One can only hope that Vaknin's activities will be more widely publicized so that Shas voters will understand that they may be voting for a sheep in wolf's clothing. The Likud - which lost a lot of votes to Shas over the years - should be taking the lead on this.

But as someone who lives in a Haredi neighborhood, I can tell you that it's rare that anyone in this neighborhood sees election materials from a non-Haredi party.

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