At a meeting of the Knesset Religious Lobby participants
raised various proposals to continue the campaign begun three
weeks ago when chareidi MKs caused the breakdown of a plenum.
But at the end of the meeting, which included representatives
of the religious councils and the rabbonim, it was decided to
accommodate the request by Ilan Cohen, the new director-
general of the Prime Minister's Office, who said he needs
time to study the issue and find a solution.
The strain on religious services and the failure to pay the
salaries of the religious council workers was brought up at a
meeting of HaIchud HaLeumi.
The NRP also discussed the issue at its weekly meeting two weeks ago
and at the end announced it would not
be able to remain a member of the coalition as long as
religious services continue to collapse. The party also
demanded that authority and responsibility for religious
services and the religious councils be restored to Deputy
Minister MK Yitzhak Levy. Now that Rabbi Levy has resigned due to
settlement issues, it is not clear what will be done.
The chareidi parties were very doubtful regarding the
announcement the NRP could resign from the coalition due to
the damage done to religious services, saying the NRP is
itself largely responsible for the current state of religious
services, adding that apparently they have no red lines.
Present at the NRP meeting to discuss the collapse of
religious services and the failure to pay many religious
council workers and rabbonim were Ilan Cohen and Government
Secretary Yisrael Maimon.
Party Chairman and Housing Minister Effi Eitam said, "The NRP
will not take part in a government that harms religious
services. The Prime Minister must honor the coalition
agreement and all other agreements between the Likud and the
NRP." Eitam also demanded the authority over religious
services be given back to Deputy Minister Levy "in order to
bring about the rehabilitation of the religious services
system and to lead a recovery process at the religious
councils." However, the issue which Eitam resigned over
was the settlements.
Welfare Minister Zevulun Orlev said "a situation in which
[many] do not receive their pay, mikvehs are closed and
marriage registry is not held" cannot be tolerated. He
claimed, "The NRP cannot take part in a government
responsible for the destruction of religious services, that
the party has its red lines and [crossing it] is just a
matter of days away."
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni lodged piercing criticism of the NRP's
conduct. "Turning to MK Shaul Yahalom (who has still not
resigned from the government) he said, "Who do you
hold to blame? The large party? The ruling party? The Likud?
True. Shinui? True. But you are partners in what this
government has been doing to religious services for the past
year and three months. There's a limit. You are partners in
Later he told NRP members they should have more of an
obligation to attend to religious services than the chareidi
MKs. "On this you say Hallel on Independence Day. This is
what you've been preaching to me about for years. You say to
me, `We are religious Zionism, the incipient sprouting of our
Geulah.' The State of Israel. What is the State of Israel--
the incipient sprouting of our Geulah?
"The first thing is religious services. This is a Jewish
state. How will you cast off your shame in light of the
religious council workers, the mikva workers sitting here?
How can you be unashamed to look them in the face? I admit
to not saying Hallel on Independence Day. But you--the total
collapse of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. You should
have voted against the government today. This is not just a
matter of salaries. This is a matter that in no properly run
nation in the world, no democratic nation, could such a thing
take place that wages are withheld for a month, two months,
three months, a year, a year and seven months. A retired man
arrived at the religious council in Tel Aviv on Thursday
asking for a loan to buy medicine. He has not received a
salary for several months. He has to buy medicine. On Sunday
his funeral was held. I am not talking humane, I am not
talking democratic, I am not speaking about some sort of
human sensitivity or cruelty to animals. Men, women,
children. I am talking about a Jewish state. And you, Shaul
Yahalom, say Hallel on Independence Day."