All five MKs of United Torah Judaism voted against the
government in the no-confidence motion presented by Likud on
Monday over the new curriculum introduced by Education
Minister Yossi Sarid. The MKs of Shas and the National
Religious Party also voted against the government, leaving
Prime Minister Ehud Barak with the support of only one-third
of his cabinet ministers. The Cabinet ministers of those
parties did not participate in the vote. If they vote against
the government in a no-confidence motion, they must resign.
Yisrael Ba'aliya was absent for the voting.
In explaining the vote, a UTJ spokesman said that the vote
was a matter of principle and not designed to exert pressure
for money or other benefits. Just yesterday he spoke
gratuitously against Megillas Esther.
The motion was rejected by a vote of only 48 to 42, with
three abstentions, and highlighted the fragility of prime
minister Barak's government. Although no coalition member is
ready to leave or to bring down the government, they are
profoundly dissatisfied with the way things are going.
Education Minister Yossi Sarid has been deliberately
provocative in his recent decisions. Last week he announced
that he intends to drop many classical Jewish sources and to
include the works of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in the
national school curriculum. He also declared publicly, and of
his own initiative, that he works on Shabbos. In addition, he
has been very uncooperative with fellow coalition member
Shas. He has been very grudging in transferring money for
their ailing school system, and has refused to give Deputy
Education Minister M. Nahari the responsibilities that he is
supposed to get under the agreements.
In Monday's vote, three Shinui MKs, including its leader
Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, opposed the government. Am Echad MKs
Amir Peretz and Haim Katz abstained. Yisrael Beiteinu MK
Eliezer Cohen paired off with Transport Minister Yitzhak
Mordechai, who is on vacation pending a police probe into
Another no-confidence motion, filed by the Arab parties over
the decision to grant an early release to Yoram Skolnik, was
rejected by a vote of 67 to 11.
Likud whip Ruby Rivlin said the vote had caused a
"deterioration of the status of the government." The fact
that there were only eight ministers at the cabinet table in
the plenum shows they don't support the government, he
The debate on the Darwish motion passed quietly after the
issue has raised a continual uproar since Sarid's decision
In a meeting devoted to the Darwish issue prior to the no-
confidence vote, Knesset Education Committee chairman Zevulun
Orlev called upon Barak to set up a ministerial committee to
oversee the activities of the education minister, similar to
the Social Economic Forum that reviews the nation's economic
policy. "There has to be some kind of mechanism to limit the
intervention of the education minister in the curriculum,"
Orlev said, citing Darwish and Sarid's instituting a day of
learning about the Kfar Kassem massacre in schools last year.
"It's too bad you can't vote no confidence in a minister."