On Monday 25 Teves (January 3), Rabbi Moshe Gafni questioned Minister Chaim Ramon, who was speaking in the name of the Government, about the report that Prime Minster Barak had recommended that Mrs. Clinton learn "how to handle the chareidim" (in running for the Senate in the U.S. State of New York) from Tommy Lapid, the colorful head of the virulently anti-religious Shinui party. Rabbi Gafni said that Barak has not denied that he said this and "such a Prime Minister is not worthy of our confidence."
Speaking in the course of a Knesset debate about a no confidence motion in prime minister Barak, Rabbi Gafni quoted a column in the Jerusalem local weekly Kol Ha'ir which related that Lapid has recently been receiving unusual invitations from the office of the Prime Minister, and that Barak invites Lapid to cocktail parties and various events generally attended by VIPs from abroad. The paper also said that at such an event held in honor of Mrs. Clinton, Barak introduced Lapid to her and said: "He'll teach you how to deal with the American chareidim."
Rabbi Gafni stressed that this story hasn't been denied, although it was publicized more than a week ago. "Apparently, Mr. Barak tells each sector what it wants to hear. Before the elections he said: `Money for employment and not for the chareidim.' However, it became clear that he didn't speak the truth. He said:`Money for health and not for the settlers.' And what do you think he did? He added money for the settlements.
"A Prime Minister must be honest. Today, when he examines the budget and sees that a chareidi school child receives a quarter of what a child in the general school system is allotted, he understands that there is a limit to discrimination. But if so, he should get up publicly and declare: I made a mistake, and the chareidi sector is severely discriminated against."
In response to a Knesset motion presented on the issue of the report in Kol Ha'ir by a representative of UTJ and in response to Rabbi Gafni's remarks, Minister Chaim Ramon denied in the name of the prime minister that he had said such a thing to Mrs. Clinton.
The main business of the Knesset was that a large majority in the plenum rejected a no confidence motion in prime minister Barak presented by Likud, based on the independent organizations which apparently helped prime minister Barak in his election campaign. 49 Knesset members voted against the proposal and only 19 supported it. The representatives of UTJ did not participate in the voting.
Since the election, information has gradually come to light about the formation and activities of many organizations that were founded by Barak associates and advisors in the period leading up to the elections. Though these were said to be independent not-for-profit organizations dedicated to nonpartisan social issues, they are alleged to have funded various political activities in sharp violation of election laws. The reason that Barak would have had to conduct things this way, if he or his associates in fact did so, was to avoid strict legal limits on election spending. Activities that are funded by independent organizations are not counted in the candidate's campaign spending limits.
At times, the Knesset deliberations on the no confidence proposal were so stormy that the speaker was forced to call the Knesset members to order and even to threaten to remove the more vociferous ones from the plenum in order to quiet them and return the discussion to normal tones.
Minister Chaim Ramon, who responded in the name of the government said, "I am prepared to take a chance and, without knowing what is written in the report of the State Comptroller which is due to appear in three weeks, to state that Ehud Barak had not even the most minimal connection to the any kind of corrupt activity, not in administrative violations and surely not in any criminal problems."
MK Michael Eitan who presented the no confidence proposal in the name of the Likud and who has been doggedly pursuing the issue in the months since the elections, sharply accused the prime minister and his aides -- mainly Administration secretary Yitzhak Herzog -- of hiding facts and of inducing a conspiracy of silence in the entire affair of the non- profit organizations which helped Barak in the race for the Prime Minister. "It is impossible to continue to remain silent, to smear over and to hide and to cover up the findings, because everyone already knows the truth," Eitan cried.