It is possible that the government crisis will be solved by
the time this editorial is read, but not likely. At best
there may be a temporary solution, a patch good for another
few months. The situation shows how flawed the current system
The immediate issue is the elaborate game played between
Prime Minister Barak and Shas, the second-largest party in
the government. As part of the agreement signed by all
parties entering the Barak government, the financial
difficulties of Shas' school network were to be solved.
Relatively speaking, in a multi-billion dollar budget, the $6-
12 million dollars that Shas needs is not a large sum. Yet
after a year, Shas had nothing but a string of broken
promises. Education Minister Yossi Sarid has refused to help
out the Shas schools since he is more interested in his own
voters who are impressed by his making life difficult for
Shas, than with the needs of Barak, of the Israeli government
or of the State as a whole.
All parties really want a solution, but do not seem to know
how to force one. The result is a farce. Two weeks ago on
Wednesday, Barak announced that he would fire the Shas
ministers the following Sunday, after they voted to hold new
elections. That Thursday, the Shas ministers announced that
they would resign. On Sunday Barak announced that he would
not fire them yet after all, but then on Tuesday Shas
announced that they would resign anyway the following Sunday.
On Wednesday, Barak announced that the Cabinet had authorized
him to fire the Shas ministers without further notice. But
this Sunday Barak announced that he was postponing the weekly
Cabinet meeting so that the Shas ministers would not hand in
their resignation, to allow more time for negotiations.
The real cause of the coalition crisis is the fragmentation
of the Knesset. Barak's core support is only the 26 members
of One Israel, 10 of Meretz, 6 of Shinui, 6 of the Center
Party and 2 left-wing Russians -- a total of only 50 seats.
Currently Shinui and the 2 Russians are out, and instead Shas
(17), NRP (5) and Yisrael Ba'aliya (4) are in, giving a solid
In forming a narrow government, most figure that another two
seats of Am Echad could be added to the 50, together with the
support of 10 Arab votes from outside the government. This
would be an extraordinarily weak government composed of six
different parties with different values, subject to constant
pressure from 58 opposition MKs who would be pretty united
against the government. Add to this the fact that the Arabs
are increasingly volatile and assertive and could not be
counted on for the many individual votes that a government
needs to run things, and the result is a government that
would probably fall apart, and would in any case be too weak
to advance any agenda, whether diplomatic, social or
The bottom line is that Barak cannot form a reasonable
government without Shas.
Barak himself does not appear very strong. Though he once
declared, "No human being can threaten me," and he continues
to talk with firm confidence, it becomes more and more
evident to everyone but himself that he is led by events and
does not lead.
Secular observers try to explain the disappointment with
Barak by saying that unrealistic expectations were built up
which led to disappointment when they clashed with
However, these pundits lack a basic concept that is
elementary in the Torah world: gaava. We can see
clearly that Hashem has simply, once again, brought down
someone who thought that his place was on high.