Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Shevat 5763 - January 8, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Our Perspective on the Election Campaign, 5763

The Israeli political system is centered around the Knesset, which is made up of political parties. Every citizen who votes will cast a ballot for one of the parties that registered to run for election last month. (This time there will be only a ballot for a party and not a separate ballot for prime minister, a return to the system that was in force until about ten years ago.)

The results are tallied, and then seats in the 120-member Knesset are given out in proportion to the number of votes received by the party. Theoretically, for every almost-1 percent of the vote (0.83 percent), a party would get one seat. In practice a party must get more votes per seat because of the way that excess votes (enough only for a fractional seat) are accounted for, and also because of the minimum that every party must receive to enter the Knesset (which virtually ensures that the smallest party must have at least two Knesset representatives).

After the votes are tallied, the leader of the largest party is given the opportunity to form a government which he will lead as prime minister.

Israeli politics has been dominated by two large parties which have shared the leadership between them: on the right is the Likud, now led by Ariel Sharon, and on the left is Labor, now led by Amram Mitzna. Also on the extreme left is Meretz and on the extreme right is Yisrael Beiteinu.

Then there are the parties that are not defined by politics but by other interests: ethnic parties and religious parties. These include the Arab parties and the religious parties such as United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas (a combined religious and ethnic party) and the National Religious Party.

Striking in this election is the rise of another party devoted to a special interest: the Shinui party which is devoted to hatred of chareidim. Its leader, Tomy Lapid, loses no chance to criticize chareidim, and he is quite creative, articulate, inventive and colorful about his complaints. He is consistently against chareidim and anything that we do, and most of the support of his party is from people who agree with his message of anti-chareidim.

Lapid's main theme is that the chareidim are living off of everyone else. He recently claimed that his children will have to support 70 chareidim. He constantly harps on the fact that chareidim have large families, for example: "The more that the haredim multiply, the tighter their noose around the country`s throat; the more their roots dig down deeper, the less chance we have of freeing ourselves from their grip." He calls kashrus supervision a "tax" on the secular, ignoring simple economic considerations that show that broadening the market for a product allows economies of scale that make it cheaper for everyone, far outweighing the relatively minor cost of kashrus supervision.

Up until now the fight against religion in Israel has been led by the political left. Shinui identifies with the center and right of the political spectrum, which is generally more sympathetic to Judaism.

The chareidi community does not regard the Israeli political arena as an area of our primary interest. However, as the Steipler once pointed out, if we do not speak up, others will gladly speak in our name. The rabbonim have already endorsed United Torah Judaism. That is the basis of what we do, although we also believe that the perspective the UTJ represents is also the best for the country and the Jewish people as a whole.

Just last week, HaRav Eliashiv told the heads of Degel HaTorah, "At this time, there is no room for complacency. You must do whatever you can. In today's conditions, in which the continued existence of the religion and of the Olom Hatorah are in danger, eveyone certainly understands that he should do whatever he can to prevail in the struggle. You must do whatever you can to strengthen the religion and to increase kvod Shomayim."

Maran shlita then added, "Hashem yisborach should help you to have brochoh and hatzlochoh in your work."

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