Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Av 5764 - July 28, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment

by E. Rauchberger

Sharon's Priorities

Through the negotiating team he set up, Ariel Sharon is conducting negotiations with all the parties that could conceivably join his coalition, but obviously he has certain priorities and preferences.

Pay careful attention to what Sharon says. The voice is his voice, but the hands belong to his son Omri, who is really in charge. He is his father's main advisor and generally the father does not go against his son.

In last week's Likud Party meeting, Sharon referred to the current negotiations as negotiations to expand the government and the coalition, rather than negotiations to set up a new government or coalition. This distinction may sound innocent enough, but it is not innocent in the least. Rather it serves as an indication of how the Sharon family would like to see the new coalition take shape.

The fact the only MK included on the negotiating team is Gidon Saar is also of great significance. On the surface one might claim Saar is serving in the role of Likud Party chairman in the Knesset and coalition chairman and as such it is perfectly natural for him to be included on the negotiating team. When efforts are made to expand the coalition, the person at its head is a central figure. But in this case matters are not as simple as they appear.

The coalition Sharon wants most is Likud-Shinui-NRP and . . . United Torah Jewry. Yes. The big mess Sharon has been creating is just intended to bring another five MKs into the coalition, the five UTJ MKs. By repeatedly saying he won't accept ostracism he is signaling to Shinui it must retreat from its opposition to UTJ.

This is why he has been speaking in terms of expanding the current coalition base and why he included Gidon Saar on the negotiating team, for Saar's great ambition is to keep Labor out. This is also why he already appointed Ilan Shalgi to replace Paritzky as minister. Had his plan been to alter the entire structure of the coalition and the distribution of portfolios by bringing in Labor, why was it so urgent for him to include Shalgi in the government? Thus he has also been conducting intensive negotiations with Labor while negotiations with UTJ were left on the back burner, saving it for last.

Of course Shinui would prefer Labor be brought in to set up a secular government. To prevent this from happening Sharon must conduct serious negotiations with Labor to demonstrate that he is making every effort to bring that party in and then, at just the right moment, some sort of crisis will arise to ruin the shidduch. Sharon is hoping this stunt will be enough to force Shinui to accept UTJ in order to preserve the current coalition. The alternative would be not to include Shinui in the government, which it certainly does not want.

The big question is after Shinui agrees to sit in the same coalition with UTJ, will UTJ agree to sit in the same coalition as Shinui? This question can only be decided by gedolei Torah after all the facts and figures have been laid before them.

Sharon's second option is to set up a large unity government including Shinui, Labor, the NRP and the chareidi parties. The more the merrier! Sound familiar? This also fits the description of a broader coalition rather than a new coalition, but such a large coalition would be very complex to manage and maintain.

Sharon's third option is a government without Shinui and with Labor, UTJ and Shas. If the NRP also wants to stay in such a government, fine.

The finally option is a secular unity government consisting of Likud, Labor and Shinui, which is highly unlikely.

When all is said and done the option of leaving the current situation -- a minority government -- in place also exists. The current government has a majority in the Knesset on virtually every matter even though it is a minority government, but clearly this entails a challenge. It requires exacting discipline, having to enlist support of outsiders and having perfect attendance at all votes. Even when it comes time to pass the budget it will also be possible to achieve a majority with this coalition. It could cost a few hundred million, but that would definitely be a reasonable price.

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