Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Sivan 5761 - June 20, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica - Good Bet--So Far

by E. Rauchberger

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was elected on a security platform and was expected to establish public order by going head-to-head with the Palestinians, has been doing just the opposite ever since taking office.

Over the past few weeks he has been placing his bets on a policy of restraint and although he has faced tremendous criticism from the right, so far it has worked out: it was this policy that eventually led the U.S. to impose the cease- fire on Arafat through CIA Director George Tenet.

If a survey had been conducted six months ago asking people what they thought Sharon would do after a terrorist attack in which 20 young Israelis were killed, 98 percent of respondents would undoubtedly have said he would launch the kind of military strike on Palestinian targets that would not soon be forgotten. And if those surveyed were asked what Sharon would do after a terrorist attack in which a five- month-old baby was killed, invariably the responses would have been similar.

But Sharon has surprised everyone, perhaps even himself. After the attack at the Dolphinarium he chose to show restraint and to try to use it to leverage a cease-fire via political and diplomatic channels. He took the same approach following the attack in which the baby, Yehuda Shoham, z'l, was fatally wounded, and beforehand when Jews were killed on the roads of Judea and Samaria.

So far, Sharon's bet has been paying off. Had he opted for a military solution, it seems unlikely that he would have obtained the results he achieved with last week's cease- fire. Now the ball is in Arafat's court and it is up to him to implement the cease-fire agreement.

Sharon bet the farm. If the cease-fire agreement had not been reached, security figures predicted serious escalation, to the point of a possible blood bath. In such a scenario the settlers would of course be the primary victims and would amplify their criticism of Sharon, telling him, "We told you so. Not only did you achieve nothing, but you also impaired your deterrent capability and showed weakness. If you had struck out at them on time, the Palestinians would have been deterred and would have been afraid of the consequences of escalating the violence."

Man of Mettle

Sharon has always been considered courageous, and last week he again displayed his mettle when he decided to come to the funeral of Yehuda Shoham, z'l, and delivered a eulogy before thousands of participants, mostly hard-core right- wing settlers.

For Sharon, this was like descending into a pit of lions. This sector has been transformed from faithful supporters to outspoken opponents. Until a short time ago, Sharon was adored by the Right and despised by the Left. Today that situation has been reversed: the Left lavishes him with praise and sympathy and meanwhile his opponents on the Right keep growing in number.

Twelve hours before the baby passed away Sharon arrived at the hospital to pay a visit. If he hadn't had a chance to make the visit, the settlers would have been enraged over the fact that he found time to visit the victims of the Dolphinarium bombing, but had no time for a little baby that knows no sin, and would have accused him of discriminatory treatment. It is also uncertain whether the baby's parents would have allowed him to deliver a eulogy during the funeral if he had not made that appearance at the hospital.

Sharon is well aware that despite the way the Left has been embracing him, in the long run he must retain the Right's support. Although the Left has been smiling upon him lately, one day this political quirk will have run its course and the previous dynamics will be reinstated. This might even take place overnight with the resumption of the political process.

When it does happen Sharon will need the Right on his side. He cannot afford to leave them out. He has to make every effort to keep them as close as possible by making conciliatory gestures toward them to blunt the anger and resentment felt toward him. That was the reason why he decided to go to the funeral, despite the GSS' objections and despite warnings that he might subject himself to heckling that could harm his political image.

Sharon is satisfied with his current political situation. Surveys indicate an impressive rate of support and forecast victory against every potential rival from the Labor Party, as well as his rival back home, Binyamin Netanyahu. As far as Sharon is concerned, the latter threat overshadows the former.

Yet in all of the surveys his high approval ratings stem from Left-wing support. On the Right, however, there is a decrease or standstill, leaving Sharon afraid of a move by Netanyahu and encouraging him to do everything in his power to make amends with the settlers in spite of their recent apathy toward him.

Sharon's fears of Netanyahu are so great that last week he found time to attack his loyal follower, Yisrael Katz.

In the midst of all of the chaos, tumult and emergency meetings, Sharon convened an urgent meeting with coalition party heads, asking them to mobilize their forces to defeat Yisrael Katz' Galilee Bill. The official reason offered for his opposition to the bill is its astronomical cost. But the real reason is his strong lack of any desire to grant Katz-- and via him Netanyahu--such a significant achievement to wave before Galilee residents, many of whom are of course Likud supporters.

It can definitely be said that despite the problems from the Right, as long as Ichud Leumi-Yisrael Beiteinu is in the coalition Sharon can expect relative peace from the Right. His problems with the Right will begin once it resigns, just as his problems with the Left will begin when the Labor Party resigns.

Last week the Prime Minister held talks with members of the Center Party about the possibility of bringing them into the coalition for just this reason. According to indications, for the time being the Center Party does not have any intention of joining the coalition unless Dan Meridor and Roni Milo are given decent portfolios, and at present, none are available. Such portfolios will only become available if Lieberman and Ze'evi or the Labor Party resigns.

From Sharon's perspective Meridor and Milo are a pair that could be useful under either of the following set of circumstances: If the Labor Party resigns, bringing in Meridor and Milo, who have a moderate left-wing image, could be a great help. If Ichud Leumi-Yisrael Beiteinu resigns, the pair can always point to their Likud origins, their tutelage under Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, and their education in the Jabotinski school of thought to reinforce their entry into the government and meet the needs of the Right.

Holding Back the Non-Jewish Masses

At a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Immigration and Absorption last week it was reported that ten years ago an average of 340 people converted to Judaism every year, while today some 4,000 people convert to Judaism every year including the Falashmora, i.e. an increase of 1,200%. But despite this alarming figure, the situation could be worse.

During the course of the committee meeting almost all those present vented their frustration over Israel's inadequate conversion rate, the lack of budgetary funds for conversion ulpanim, the personnel shortage--in short, the situation from our perspective may be better than it appears at first glance.

The following is a sample of quotes taken from the committee meeting:

Committee chairman Tzvi Handel (Ichud Leumi): "The number of people seeking conversion requires the establishment of an improved, well-oiled conversion system to replace the current one, which does not meet the demand."

Professor Benny Ish Shalom, head of the Joint Conversion Ulpanim: "The issue of conversion is not a high priority, and the resources and budgetary funds necessary to improve the conversion system and to transform it into a national project are lacking."

Dr. Meir Peretz, director of the Ministry of Education's Department for Adult Education: "Conversion ulpanim are in danger of being closed since no one in the State of Israel recognizes them."

Marina Solodkin (Yisrael Ba'aliya): "According to the way things are being run today, the amount of attention given to this issue is not very significant."

Assuming the majority of the 4,000 annual conversions are fictitious and are not done according to halacha, this represents a very troubling figure. However, credit is due to a number of organizations for helping to ensure that the wholesale conversion machine, which could have transformed many more goyim into pseudo-Jews, has not gained momentum. Leading the list is the Vaad Horabbonim Haolami Leinyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, av beis din of Antwerp, and Yated Ne'eman.

The Vaad has been fighting through a variety of channels for many years, particularly during the last ten years, against efforts to engineer an assembly-line conversion system here in Israel. The Vaad heads would enjoy reading the minutes of last week's meeting of the Committee for Immigration and Absorption; the grievances voiced there are proof that their efforts have produced results. Still, much work remains in order to bring bogus conversions to a halt, for every such conversion is one too many.

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