Many reactions, from all sides of the political
system, were heard yesterday, to the decision of
Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein to instruct the
Police to open a criminal investigation of HaRav
Ovadia Yosef, the leader of Shas. Despite the
decision and the fact that a number of Knesset
members in the party wanted to withdraw from the
coalition immediately, the leadership of the party
has decided to remain in the coalition for the time
Ten days ago in his weekly motzei Shabbos
broadcast, HaRav Yosef compared Meretz leader and
Education Minister Yossi Sarid to Haman and Amolek.
He cursed Sarid and called on G-d to blot out his
memory. However, in his last shiur, though
he refused to retract his remarks, HaRav Yosef made
it clear that he did not advocate any violence. As
the entire religious community already understood,
his remarks were directed to Heaven and as
directions for prayer, not as calls to physical
At a meeting attended by the State Prosecutor Edna
Arbel, the participants decided that the remarks
may be a crime and that there are grounds for
conducting an investigation. They said that HaRav
Yosef's remarks might violate the laws to prevent
violence and the harm to others. They might also
contain an element of offense to a public
In his decision to open an investigation,
Rubinstein noted that HaRav Ovadia Yosef made a
number of clarifications in which he stressed that
it is forbidden to use physical violence against
Minister Sarid. HaRav Yosef published his
clarification in a letter to Shas Minister Eli
Yishai and later on also in an interview with a
pirate radio station. However, HaRav Yosef did not
retract his remarks about Sarid.
HaRav Yosef's remarks were the result of what he
sees as Sarid's determination to wipe out Torah
education and in particular Shas's Ma'ayan
Hachinuch Hatorani school network.
Shas is demanding, among other matters, that
Sarid's deputy, Shas MK Meshulam Nahari, be given
direct, independent responsibility for the chareidi
schools. Sarid refuses, and has said that he will
never allow it.
Barak reportedly favors Shas's side of the
argument, leaving Meretz no choice but to leave the
government should Barak insist that Nahari get the
job and the agreement be reopened.
On Monday night (21 Adar II) the Shas's Moetzes
Chachamim convened and decided that for the time
being the party would remain in the coalition. This
decision was made despite the fact that many
Knesset members in Shas recommended withdrawing
from the coalition, because of the contempt shown
Shas and its leaders by all of those in the
government: the Prime Minster, Cabinet ministers,
Minister Sarid, the Attorney General and others.
Minster of Health Rabbi Shlomo Benizri said that
the decision of the Attorney General is a racist
one and was taken only because the chareidi and
Sephardic sectors are involved.
A short while after the Attorney General's
announcement, the Shas party met and its chairman,
Eli Yishai, said: "Shas rejects with disgust the
contemptible decision both on the legal, the public
and the Jewish plane. This decision will not stand
up to public scrutiny."
He then added that the decision of the Attorney
General proves that there is freedom of expression
only for part of the community, and that it is very
likely that the government will not finish its term
and that elections will be held in advance.
Minister Benizri was angry that no Leftist who had
made similar remarks toward the chareidi sector had
been called to justice. "They have one problem with
Shas: that it is growing." According to Benizri,
until today, no Shas member ever behaved violently.
"They give us the feeling that we are second and
third class citizens," he said. Benizri called on
Rubinstein to recommend a police inquiry into
former Meretz education minister Shulamit Aloni,
recently nominated by Sarid for the Israel Prize,
who last week compared HaRav Yosef to Caligula.
Religious Affairs Minister Yitzchak Cohen attacked
the decision in an interview in the media and said
that Yossi Sarid should also be brought to justice,
"His mouth is filthy with remarks against the
chareidi sector, which are much sharper than those
of HaRav Ovadia Yosef against him."
MK Rabbi Meir Porush said: "The decision of the
Attorney General is unprecedented and dangerous.
They have regressed to the lowest of levels since
the founding of the State. The Attorney General
should have handled the incitement and attacks
against the chareidi sector, which have already
resulted in assaults on people and synagogues, in
the same way."
The Center for the Prevention of Defamation
announced: "After the grim forecasts of violence on
the part of Shas were proven false again and again,
the decision of Rubinstein is very perplexing and
worth of reproach. His decision means the
government uses force only against one particular
camp, especially in the light of its continual
coddling of inciters, including Shulamit Aloni.
This action clearly exacerbates the rift in
The Left was also not silent. Minister Ran Cohen
said that he honors the decision of the Attorney
General, and accepts it in the same way that Meretz
accepts every other decision of the Attorney
General. "It is a pity that HaRav Ovadia Yosef and
the heads of Shas have not expressed regret over
that remark. If HaRav Ovadia Yosef would do that,
there might have been no need to resort to this
procedure," Cohen said.