Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Adar 5761 - February 28, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Banished from Politics

E. Rauchberger

Ehud Barak is heading for home, and this time for good, although Barak has repeatedly demonstrated that with him, nothing is ever final. After having entrenched the concept of flip-flopping into the political establishment, this time it seems he has done his last flip-flop.

Ehud Barak, the worst, most ineffectual prime minister in the annals of the State of Israel, has only himself to blame for this misfortune. He is the one who caused the public, and later the political establishment, to spew him out. Essentially he was banished: he ate rotten fish and was driven out of town.

Many religious Knesset members and political figures have used Pharaoh and Egypt as a parable to illustrate what happened to Ehud Barak--the man who picked a fight with bnei Torah and the Torah world, the kedushah of Shabbos and taharas hayichus, and attempted to raze every remnant of Yiddishkeit, left in the country.

Barak could have made a quiet exit, but HaKadosh Boruch Hu hardened his heart so that he would be afflicted with another plague, and another and another. One to recompense him for the "secular revolution," one for Shabbos, one for civil marriage, and the final plague, the harshest of them all, for persecuting the Torah world and the yeshiva students and avreichim.

Every subsequent prime minister, whether from the Left or the Right, should learn from his mistake: Don't meddle with Shabbos Kodesh or lomdei Torah, for certain lines should not be crossed.

Contagious Disease

Barak wanted to be Defense Minister. He wanted to remain a part of the political establishment in the highest position made available to the Labor Party, and thought he could take the job without causing a ripple. He underestimated how much derision he had brought upon himself within his own party, and all the more so in other parties and by the public at large.

Ehud Barak had so deeply ingrained the flip-flop policy in the political establishment and in his own party that it is being adopted almost unabashedly by other Labor Party politicians, like a contagious disease. His colleagues, however, have not come down with such a bad case of it; with Barak, when someone would try to find out what his opinion was on a given issue, the question was which Barak--the morning Barak, the afternoon Barak, or the nighttime Barak; the Sunday Barak, the Monday Barak or the Tuesday Barak. Although other politicians have not reached such a sorry state, they have definitely learned the art of flip- flopping.

Take Avraham Burg, for example. Last Monday, when Barak tried one of his final maneuvers to salvage the Defense Ministry portfolio--announcing that he would resign as head of the Labor Party and would only serve as Defense Minister as long as his associates would let him have the portfolio without putting up a fight--Burg expressed approval. His only concern was that the post he was eyeing, the leadership of the Labor Party, was opening up, and that primaries would be held in the near future.

One day later Burg was already on the other side of the fence, siding with those who oppose allowing Barak to remain in politics in any capacity whatsoever, not even as defense minister alone.

Two weeks ago, when Barak consented to serve as defense minister, Burg described it as "a political infection," but last week, when Barak suddenly agreed to step down as party chairman and to satisfy himself with the Defense Ministry, the political infection went away, as if antibiotics had been administered. Suddenly Burg was willing to have Barak occupy a position that might otherwise fall into the hands of one of his two arch rivals on his way up the rungs-- Binyamin Ben Eliezer and Chaim Ramon.

A Change in the Committee

The current procedure for selecting judges has no equal in any other democratic nation. All enlightened countries employ a different system, but in Israel, the very people who consider themselves to be enlightened are strongly opposed to any change.

No other democratic country would ever consider allowing a group of individuals to withdraw into a closed room and emerge with the names of the judges with no further review. What about public visibility? What about the public debate over each and every appointment? Such a procedure is definitely more suited to a totalitarian state than a democratic nation.

Yet this same elite, enlightened circle is fervently opposed to even a slight change in the system used to select judges, and especially regarding judges of the High Court, and is afraid that people and judges who do not share the exact same thinking and worldview as that of the ruling class might come in and take part in the judicial system and the High Court. In other words, their opposition is essentially an attempt to bar competent, top-notch jurists who did not grow up in their schools.

Many proposals to change the system for selecting judges have been made in the Knesset, from holding democratic elections for them, to holding elections in the Knesset, similar to the procedure by which the President and the Comptroller are selected.

A number of ideas have also been suggested regarding the appointment of the President of the High Court, the most powerful figure on the High Court and in the judicial system as a whole. Proposals have been to select the oldest justice, rather than the justice with the longest tenure, as the current law prescribes. A proposal has also been made to set a fixed term of office for the President of the High Court, instead of the open-ended term through the age of seventy, which is currently in place.

Yet so far no one has suggested altering the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, if not to change the selection system, then at least to change the present composition of the selection committee and to make it more pluralistic, with members who hold varied opinions and represent different sectors.

The current Judicial Selection Committee consists of two government representatives with the Minister of Justice serving as committee chairman, two Knesset representatives, two representatives from the Bar Association, and three High Court justices, including the Court President of course.

Last week Yigal Bibi (Mafdal) tabled a bill to alter the composition of the committee. According to his proposal, the number of committee members would be increased from 9 to 11, and the judiciary, the legislature and the government would receive equal representation. Thus there would be three MKs, three justices, and the Bar would retain two representatives.

Bibi's strategy is really quite logical: if you can't beat them from without, conquer them from within. Through his proposal Bibi wants to alter the balance of power between the elite clique currently presiding and those who are not numbered among its numbers.

Bibi stresses that his proposal is a temporary measure until a totally new system is instituted and the nominating committee is disbanded.

This bill, like all of the other proposals to change the existing selection system, will be received with vehement opposition by the Ministry of Justice and by those who hold an interest in the High Court. Why would Aharon Barak agree to reduce his influence and power from one-third of committee members to just over one-fourth? No highly motivated individual would agree to this, and no one denies that Barak is indeed highly motivated.

Hooray for Micronesia

How many of our readers have heard of, know of or have ever visited Micronesia?

It consists of four islands in the South Pacific. Micronesia has 133,144 inhabitants, all of whom are Christian. It is a small country--in fact, a tiny country. Perhaps it would have been more apt to call it Microscopia. The Micronesian legislature has a grand total of 14 representatives.

And what does this have to do with politics? Last week, the Knesset's Interior Committee discussed a request by Interior Minister Chaim Ramon to grant Micronesians a visa exemption, mirroring the visa exemption Micronesia has granted Israeli citizens.

The Foreign Ministry recommended granting the exemption, the Interior Minister accepted the recommendation and rubber- stamped it and the final stop, the Knesset's Interior Committee, also approved the proposal last week.

How is it that the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Knesset Committee devoted time and energy to this trifling country and unanimously approved a visa exemption? All of Micronesia is smaller than Bnei Brak, and half the size of Haifa.

The answer is that this little country is one of Israel's closest, most loyal allies, perhaps even closer than our number-one friend, the United States. Micronesia supports Israel on every issue in the international arena, without exception. On every issue associated with Israel that comes up in the United Nations, Micronesia is a sure vote; the yeas are invariably at least two, Israel and Micronesia.

Five years ago, for instance, during Netanyahu's term in office, following the violent incidents in the Territories after the Western Wall Tunnels were opened up, a proposal was made in the United Nations to condemn Israel. Not a single country supported Israel, except for Micronesia. Even the U.S., Israel's dear friend and ally which can usually even be counted on to veto decisions against Israel, opted to abstain rather than to block the condemnation. But Micronesia remained at our side. And now the Ministry of Tourism is anticipating that perhaps thousands and tens of thousands of Micronesian tourists (hundreds of thousands is of course out of the question) will flock to visit Israel.

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