Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Teves 5761 - January 17, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Smoothing Out the Zigzags

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is like a clever football runner: he is constantly changing direction to keep everyone off balance and guessing about his real intentions.

When he started out he declared that he would be everyone's prime minister, and he made great efforts to include even the religious parties such as UTJ and Shas in his government in order to have the largest possible majority in the Knesset. In his most decisive tone of voice he explained that it was essential for the State that the chareidi parties be brought into the center of things, even if that prevented him from doing everything that he wanted.

Barak did not flinch when Meretz leader Yossi Sarid resigned from the government (the second group to leave the government after UTJ) when the interests of Shas and Meretz clashed, since Shas was much more important to the "peace effort" which was paramount.

However, not long after this, Barak tried to form a national unity government to include the Likud, a move that obviously would put any of his peace efforts on hold.

Then he lost the support of Shas and declared a secular cultural revolution that would change the nature of Israeli society, removing all public traces of Yiddishkeit. Not long after that he struck another deal with Shas, shelving the whole secular revolution.

In the last few weeks he has oscillated between declaiming the might of Israel and quiet acquiescence to the demands of the Palestinians for relaxing security measures in the hope that they will negotiate an agreement. He accepted the conditions of U.S. President Clinton, but then declared that he would never give up sovereignty of the Har Habayis, effectively refusing to accept one of the central proposals.

What is left after all this? Can anything be discerned that can be called Barak's true position?

Though Barak is ostensibly the leader of the Labor Party, his consistent positions seem to be those of Meretz. He is perhaps less principled and more willing to bend his policies to the needs of the moment, but those are the lines to which he always returns.

He is personally in favor of complete secularization of Israeli society -- and thus not in tune even with the bulk of the Labor Party which retains some basic Jewish feelings. Barak ran his last campaign against Jewish religion, arguing against giving money to yeshivos (all yeshivos) and for the drafting of yeshiva students. The Labor party, throughout the years, has always been careful not to alienate the religious community.

His position on the Land of Israel is also that of Meretz. Despite his rhetoric, he apparently has no attachment to any part of Eretz Yisroel, and is willing to promise to give it up even before the Palestinians promise anything in return. In this he is also following the line of Meretz rather than the traditional line of the Labor Party.

It is true that the parameters of public debate have been changed by Barak. The partitioning of Yerushalayim, for example, has been put on the table. Yet the acceptance of these positions still remains the view of a small minority of the citizens of Israel, and a smaller minority of the Jews of Israel.

That is why polls (which always tend to err to the Left) show Barak with about 20 percent of the vote, and that is why he is unlikely to receive much more, if that much.

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