Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Av 5760 - August 30, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Beginning of the Israeli Election Campaign

Though it sounded frightening, a lot of chareidi politicians were less than impressed with the prime minister's dramatic announcement last week of a secular revolution. Though Barak continues to exude his customary confidence and promises that, given a little time, everything will be fine, his record speaks for itself.

This time Barak promised that Israel would have a constitution in a year. However, in the light of his once- promised peace with Syria in four months, and an agreement with the Palestinians in six (at various points), his deadline for a constitution seems less threatening than bombastic.

The whole proposal seems just a return to Barak's old election strategy. A year before the last elections, Barak made a very public proposal for drafting yeshiva students which, along with other anti-religious promises such as stopping or reducing government support of yeshivos, became the centerpiece of Barak's successful election campaign. At the head of a group of only 40 MKs with no visible prospect of assembling a government, Barak does not have to be especially perceptive to see a strong possibility of early elections.

Though his anti-religious line worked in the last elections, Barak largely abandoned it when it became obvious that he needed Shas to form a government. While he has certainly not been a friend of religion, neither has he been the crusader against religion that he made himself out to be. The question is if the voters will buy used slogans in a new election.

If Barak's cabinet and government have been in tatters since he left for the Camp David summit that ended in failure, last week his own personal staff also fell apart. Two senior members of the Prime Minister's Office, its director Chaim Mendel Shaked and his deputy Shimon Batat, resigned their positions. In an interview he gave to a newspaper, Batat said (referring to Barak), "Look . . . at how he works. Everything is ad hoc . . . he used to say all the time that we must not turn into a banana republic. But we have to say the truth. . . . Yes. We have turned into a banana republic. . . . It is impossible to make policy based on surveys and [market] research."

Political analysts say that barely a year since Barak took over, he seems on the verge of collapse and people are leaving rather than go down along with him. David Levy, for example, has a future only in riding someone's coattails. When he left Netanyahu, it was one of the major signs of the latter's impending collapse. Now he has left Barak.

Barak began with a lot of credit in his own party and even, relatively speaking, from his opposition. He was able to form a government of almost two-thirds of the Knesset and had to pass a special law to accommodate the ministerial desires of so many members of the government. Barely one year later, it is all gone.

In a survey taken after Barak's proposals, less than a third of the respondents believed that they were the result of planning. The majority saw them for what they surely are: just a bunch of campaign promises with virtually no chance of legislative success.

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