Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment

by E. Rauchenberg

In Ramat Gan there is a school called Bleich High School. Twenty-four years ago, before the Likud under the leadership of Menachem Begin took control of the government for the first time, mock elections were held at the school, and the students voted in favor of Begin, foreseeing the country's first political takeover. Ever since then the school has acquired a reputation as a barometer for election results.

Although in 1999 Bleich students successfully predicted that Barak would defeat Netanyahu, there have also been many bad calls along the way. In 1996, for instance, Bleich students voted for Peres but the people voted to bring in Netanyahu.

Last week the mock elections at Bleich were held. Most of the students at this prestigious school hail from North Tel Aviv, left-leaning homes, making the results quite predictable. Unlike all of the surveys and forecasts, at Bleich Barak won by a respectable margin. As far as Bliech High School is concerned, Barak is to remain in office. Prime Minister of Bleich. The truth is that in all recent elections, Bleich just votes for the Left. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong. Just like every other predictor.

Meanwhile senior Likud Party officials are angry with Sharon and his advisors for allowing Sharon to go to other schools like Bliech in left-wing strongholds in the Gush Dan region, such as schools where kibbutz children are enrolled. After every lukewarm reception with confounding questions posed by students, Likud officials have had to deal with the subsequent reports broadcast on television and radio. This has turned into a valuable tool for Barak, free of charge. Whereas if Sharon had gone to development towns or to schools in other sympathetic areas, he could have generated favorable news coverage and come across as being well-liked by the nation's youth.

According to leading figures in the Likud Party, such conduct points to inept campaign management. Staff members do not perform the necessary groundwork before Sharon arrives at a given place, they do not do their homework and they do not operate efficiently. They improvise and their work is less than thorough.

The critics say that although Sharon and his staff have been committing every conceivable error, Barak's blunders serve as a counterbalance. His delegates sit in Taba and hold talks with the Palestinians will bullets are flying; the public does not appreciate such conduct and is unwilling to buy this bill of goods. This comes across as another flip- flop, perhaps his last before he leaves the stage.

Barak's Blunders

Those who have forgotten would do well to recall that Barak's downfall began with the story of the transport of the power plant components on Shabbos. At the time, Barak had a coalition consisting of almost 80 Knesset members and everything seemed to be fine. No one dreamed that in another year all that would start to unravel and eventually collapse, and that he would be forced to run for reelection with a gap of nearly 20 percentage points in the polls just a week before the elections.

But Barak's undoing was the series of mistakes he has made all along the way, which are clearly epitomized by the component transport affair, when he arrogantly announced: I am not a push-button and I can't be blackmailed. The component will be transported on Shabbos. I will make the decision, and no one can intimidate me -- including the five MK's from United Torah Jewry, who gave notice that if the component was transported on Shabbos, they would resign from the coalition.

Forget the fact that since then Barak has submitted to blackmail time and again--the five MK's from United Torah Jewry carried out their threat and resigned from the coalition following directives by gedolei Torah. The incident marked the beginning of his ruin, and his power structure started tumbling like a line of dominos. Woe to the proud, for they tread on dangerous ground.

Since when does a prime minister interfere in matters pertaining to power plant components, and whether they are to be transported on Shabbos or on Sunday or on Wednesday? Is this what a prime minister should be spending his time on? Is it worth losing a faction consisting of five Knesset members--five valuable fingers--from the coalition?

In a subsequent confrontation, Barak's haughtiness was responsible for severing his partnership with Shas. Any neophyte prime minister would have spent no more than two hours over the matter of the 20-30 million shekel budget for Shas' educational network. What is 30 million shekels compared to Shas' 17 mandates, which are critical to the coalition? But Barak insisted on imparting his own educational values on Shas, in order to denigrate the party and to prove that he was running the show; he alone would determine when they would receive the funds and how they would receive them, if at all. Eventually he was left without their support, without a government and without a coalition.

What does all this have to do with the elections scheduled to take place four days from now?

Last week Ehud Barak paid a visit to Nazareth. He toured the Arab sector in an effort to try to bring back their lost votes. As of now, all of the leading figures in the Arab sector are calling on Arab Israelis to boycott the upcoming elections as payment for the government's conduct during demonstrations by Arab Israelis four months ago in which 13 people were killed.

Before Barak's arrival, Ministers Vilnai and Beilin toiled to prepare for the visit. They pressed notable Arab figures to forgive Barak and offer their support, if for no other reason than that Ariel Sharon is the alternative, with all that implies. The Arabs would not buy this; they assembled a reception of loud, angry people waving denunciatory signs and posters showing pictures of the victims. Barak was whisked away through a side door into Nazareth's main hall, where a relatively small group of people were waiting, with no well-known Arab public figures among them.

Inside the hall, during the course of his speech, Barak expressed regret over the events in which 13 Arabs were killed. Regret, but no apologies; he was unwilling to ask forgiveness. Before the appearance his advisors had begged him to apologize, because if he had agreed to do so, it would have helped them bring in more people and soften Arab conduct toward him, but Barak refused. In this case, once again, his pride would not allow him to fully admit his error, to say, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake, forgive me."

Without a massive turnout of Arab voters in favor of Barak, he has no chance of winning the elections. Barak knows this, but nevertheless his pride will not allow him to apologize.

Who's the Primitive?

The Labor Party airs numerous commercials warning that war is imminent if Sharon rises to power. They invoke memories of Lebanon and point to the fact that Sharon has never supported any peace agreement. Meanwhile they hide the fact that Sharon was responsible for evacuating Yamit and implementing the peace agreement with Egypt. Likewise, they fail to bring to the public's attention his warm relations with the Jordanians, and the fact that following the Mishal Affair, the only Israeli figure who was wanted in Jordan was Sharon, due to the many problems he solved in Israeli- Jordanian relations.

Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is opposed to making use of the story of the Lebanese War against Sharon. He claims this goes almost 20 years back in history, and is ill-remembered. No one really cares. Ben Ami believes that commercials should present Barak's path and Sharon's path, side by side.

In this context, Ben Ami was quoted as saying, "In Europe they would have thrown rotten tomatoes at Arik Sharon. Unfortunately we are a primitive people and are willing to swallow this hodgepodge of slogans."

But just who are the primitives: a large sector of the Israeli public, which is unwilling to forgive Barak for all the blunders he has committed over the last year and a half; for taking the reins over a country in decent condition and bringing about a political, economic, and social decline, along with a degeneration in its state of security; for receiving such a strong mandate in the previous elections, and wasting it like a rookie and failing every test; for setting a new record by having to resign barely fifteen months after setting up a government; or Ben Ami, who maintains that Barak is splendid, and deserves to be reelected for his tremendous efforts and achievements over the last year and a half?

The public Mr. Ben Ami is referring to may not remember Lebanon because that was 20 years ago, but it does recall Barak's deeds of here and now, over the last year.

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