Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
A Portrait of Israeli Governance

by Rav Yehuda Greenwald

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 is.

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 68 seats.

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 economic.

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 reality.

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.

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