Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Palestinian Violence as Usual as the Nation Goes to the Polls
by M. Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

Palestinian attacks continued without a letup as the nation went to the polls on Tuesday to elect a prime minister, the first national election that did not involve voting for the Knesset. Chareidi voters in particular had an unpleasant choice between two secular candidates. Nonetheless, the decision was firm and unequivocal as the gedolei Torah urged everyone to vote for "the candidate who, it is hoped, will not lend a hand to destroy religion in Eretz Hakodesh." Though their choice was clear, the rabbonim did not mention the name of the candidate they said to vote for.

St.-Sgt. Rujayah Salameh, 23, of the Lower Galilee village of Turan, was killed by Palestinian sniper fire Monday afternoon, the day before the elections, near Rafah, on the Egyptian border. Fellow soldier Georgie Salim said he and Salameh were among only six Christians in the southern Bedouin unit.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the immediate closure of the Dahaniya Airport in Gaza and the Rafah crossing.

The IDF imposed a general closure on Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip during the voting, barring Palestinians from entering Israel except in humanitarian cases. Police and security forces remained on high alert.

During the night preceding the opening of the polls at 7 a.m., Palestinian gunmen shot at civilians and Army troops near Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip settlements of Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Neveh Dekalim came under sniper fire as well. IDF forces returned fire in all cases and there were no injuries.

The intifadah leadership, headed by Fatah but comprising all Palestinian factions, has called for a "day of rage" on Tuesday. They all vowed to continue the intifadah and escalate violence against soldiers and Israeli civilians no matter who wins.

In Hebron on Monday, soldiers fired a tank shell at a Palestinian position in the Abu Sneneh neighborhood from which gunmen had fired on the Hebron Jewish community's Avrohom Ovinu quarter, narrowly missing a group of children near the quarter's kindergarten.

The U.S. called on Israel and the Palestinians to avoid violence during the transition period following the election. Arab leaders have warned the U.S. administration that they may not be able to restrain their populations from rioting and expressing anti-Israel sentiments if Likud leader Ariel Sharon triumphs.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman sent a reassuring message to Israel, saying the election results would not impact the close U.S.-Israel relationship. "You can bet we can work with whomever is elected," she said.

Responding to Secretary of State Colin Powell's suggestion on Sunday that a transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could be delayed because of the tension in the region, Fleischer said there had been no change in Bush's view that the embassy ought to be moved.

Throughout his own election campaign, Bush had vowed to start the process of moving at least the U.S. ambassador to Jerusalem as soon as he assumed office.

Describing Sharon as a man who "embodies Israel's most militaristic impulses," The Washington Post predicted that unless Sharon breaks with his past, "for months and maybe years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be destined to be a grinding, occasionally bloody stalemate."

The winner in the election for prime minister must present his government to the Knesset 45 days after publication of the official election results by the central election committee, which is next Tuesday.

If Ariel Sharon is elected, it appears he would rush to form a government and present it to the Knesset, because until that is done, Ehud Barak and his cabinet will continue running the country. Also, he prefers to work fast and get things done.

Assuming Ariel Sharon wins, Barak and his cabinet will continue in office until a new government is approved. This includes security cabinet sessions and authority to make decisions like any other government.

Sharon already has the announced support of 62 MKs, which is enough to form a government. However, Sharon is made it clear that he prefers to form a broad government that would also include One Israel. Beyond that general statement, he has not announced details of who will fill which position.

Barak has only 40 certain MKs behind him. Even with the full support of the Arab parties and their 10 MKs, a future Barak government can raise only 50 votes, and so is exposed to no confidence votes.

If the winner does not manage to form a government and get it approved by the Knesset within 45 days, new elections for prime minister must be held within 60 days after that.

The chareidi community will vote according to the instructions of maranan verabonon. An explicit notice was published saying that everyone should vote, even if it involves travel to a different city.

In all previous Israeli elections, chareidi voters could proudly cast their ballot for Torah Judaism by standing up to be counted for United Torah Judaism. This time the vote is just between two secular candidates. It will of course be evident how the chareidi community voted from the turnout and the results at polling places that are in chareidi communities.

In Washington, Bush announced his intention to nominate Paul Wolfowitz, a strong supporter of Israel and a former high- ranking official in both the Pentagon and the State Department, as deputy secretary of defense. Wolfowitz's previous posts include undersecretary of defense for policy when Vice President Dick Cheney served as defense secretary under former president George Bush.

He is an expert on East Asia and the Middle East and is so far the highest-ranking Jew named to the Bush administration.


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