Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5761 - November 22, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment

by E. Rauchberger

Hazardous Safety Net

In another two weeks the safety net period Shas granted Barak will end. Barak and his cabinet expect Shas to extend the safety net, of course, but Shas has yet to reach a decision on the matter. A senior Shas official claimed this week that the tendency is toward a decision not to extend the safety net, but it depends entirely on security and political developments. Shas leaders definitely have reason to be satisfied with the funds being channeled to their educational network following the safety net agreement, but what is going on within their ranks since granting the safety net is not so satisfactory.

Shas' rank and file does not accept the move made by party leaders in agreeing to the safety net. They are angry and resent the fact that Jewish blood continues to be spilled in the streets while Shas is providing the government with a majority and stability with a net that does not provide safety. Shas' constituency would like to see their elected officials vote to topple the government and have it replaced.

Last week Barak visited Washington. Following a meeting with Clinton, published reports stated that Barak had shown a willingness to return to the negotiating table, based on the Camp David Accords. Now, thanks to Shas, the Prime Minister could approach Clinton confidently and advance the Camp David Accords.

Shas chairman, Eli Yishai, saw the absurdity of the situation and requested clarification from Barak. Barak's office denied that the Prime Minister gave Clinton a mandate to call a summit based on the Camp David Accords, but Yishai did not accept the denial. The Likud is also applying pressure on Shas to stop backing the safety net.

Shlomo Beniziri reminded us, and rightfully so, that Shas allowed the safety net to be set up just moments before the Likud did so by joining the emergency government. And what the Likud is allowed to do, Shas should be allowed to do. This is also likely to be Shas' primary consideration in the future. If the Likud actually does follow a move to bring down the government and call new elections, there is a chance that Shas would join. But if the Likud promotes early elections and simultaneously conducts negotiations with Barak to join the government, Shas will feel free to anticipate the Likud and support the government based on the concessions Shas is granted.

Parliamentary Intifadah

With the convening of the Knesset's winter session, the expectation was that this session would be marked by serious disputes with Arab Knesset members, to the point of quarrels that could come to blows. Since the beginning of the session, there have been hardly any meetings which did not include serious verbal conflicts with Arab Knesset members. The following is a list of selected quotes from these disputes, gathered from the Knesset protocol since last Monday: Azami Bashara (B.L.D.) said to Benny Alon (National Union): "You are not a disgrace to the country, you are a disgrace to humanity. I'd like to see you take away my citizenship and put me in prison. Let's see you try." Gidon Ezra (Likud) to Bashara: "You've torched the country." Bashara in reply: "I would not be surprised if people like you were to pick up a pistol and shoot me or other Arabs. What are you threatening to do? I would not be surprised if you carry out your threats." Zeev Boim (Likud): "This is a parliamentary Intifadah." Ezra: "They burned fields. Who taught you how to burn fields?" Bashara: "If you could, you would put me in prison, and I would just like to say to you: Put me in prison. Do it. Let's see you do it." Reuven Rivlin (Likud): "You're collaborators."

Model to be Imitated

Arab Knesset members represent a small minority of the Knesset, but they are an extremely industrious bunch, who put in overtime to represent the voting public that elected them with pride and honor. Their activity in the plenum and committee meetings is so considerable and forceful that they simply dominate the plenum debates and appear as if they are a majority of the Knesset. A look at the figures revealed astonishing findings. For example: last Monday 94 speeches by Knesset members were heard in the Knesset plenum on a variety of issues that came up that day. Of these 94 speeches, 35(!) were delivered by Knesset members from Arab parties or Arab MK's from other parties, such as Hussaniya Joubera from Meretz. In other words, nearly 40% of the speeches delivered that day from the podium were by Arabs, although only 10% of all MK's are Arabs. The Arab MKs, in everything associated with dedication to their job for the sake of their constituents can definitely serve as a model to be imitated by all Knesset members.

Beyond a doubt the Orthodox and chareidi sector could say in this context: If only we could learn from you. The Orthodox and chareidi parties have a total of 27 Knesset members, with a few other kippah-wearing MK's within the secular factions. All told they comprise more than one-fourth of Knesset members. On that same Monday, out of the 94 speeches, only 22 were delivered by religious Knesset members, and even these came about through stepped-up activity by a small handful of MK's. For instance, Rabbi Porush gave six speeches, and Benny Alon (National Union) gave five.

Arab Knesset members can add several achievements to their list in recent days. The establishment of a governmental investigatory committee to investigate incidents in the Arab sector in which 13 citizens were killed can serve as one good example. Beyond a doubt, if Orthodox and chareidi Knesset members were to work with the same intensity as the Arab MK's, the achievements they would post and provide their voters would be several times more than those which have been achieved so far.

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