by E. Rauchberger
Coalition of Silence
Ariel Sharon is looking worried. Very worried. David Spector,
the videotape man, destroyed his tranquility. In his worst
nightmares Sharon did not believe a man who had been so close
to him, practically a member of the family, would go public
with tapes incriminating him and pointing to his involvement
in the various funding transfers, contradicting Sharon's
claim that everything was carried out by his sons.
What worries Sharon most is what has not yet been divulged to
the public. Sharon does not know which tapes Mr. Spector
still has in his possession, what they show and what he will
whisk out in the future.
Yet some of his worries are allayed by the conduct of Tommy
Lapid and other Shinui MKs, which might save his skin.
Sharon's first decision after winning the elections was to
bring Shinui into the coalition at any price. Although he
also engaged in negotiations with Shas and United Torah
Jewry, the negotiators from the two parties say the talks
were a sham and were clearly not backed by any real intention
of reaching an agreement.
The most widespread explanation is that Sharon had decided to
set up a coalition in the image of Shinui due to economic
reasons and in order to allow him to implement his various
economic plans, including large cuts in the national budget,
cuts from the funding for yeshivas and other Torah
institutions and cutbacks on Children's Allowances and
various welfare programs. Of course such cuts could not be
carried out with chareidi parties in the coalition, so a
price had to paid--the loss of loyal, longstanding partners--
based on claims that in this case the ends justified the
Shinui, on the other hand, fit into the scheme very well.
Sharon's plans were perfectly amenable to a party seeking to
look out for the rich and the upper crust from North Tel
Aviv. Thus the current coalition was born.
But recently it appeared Sharon's motivation for setting up a
coalition with Lapid and Shinui and his decision to bring
them into the coalition at any price may have been totally
Sharon, unlike the majority of the public, knew exactly what
lay in store for him in the investigations and what
information was destined to surface. He was also well aware
of who he would need in such a situation.
Sharon knew if he drove Lapid into the opposition he could
anticipate real trouble. The Shinui chairman would not relent
until Sharon was forced to resign. The Prime Minister also
knew Lapid was also capable of fanning the flames in the
But by having Lapid and his party join the coalition, Sharon
knew he was buying silence that could prove very important to
He was undeterred by shouts from Eli Yishai or Yitzhak Cohen
of Shas. Shouts don't draw blood. Nor would shouts from UTJ
MKs do any real harm. They have relatively little impact on
the media and public sentiment.
Sharon, therefore, made a strategic decision to set up his
coalition with a single objective in mind: silence. Silence
from Lapid, from Paritzky and Poraz and from all of their
And he was right. The entire political system is astounded by
the conspicuous quiet from Tommy Lapid in the face of the
daily revelations about the corruption scandals Sharon and
his sons are embroiled in. Suddenly Shinui has nothing to say
about the man who created an image for himself and for his
party of corruption fighters and shining examples of
integrity. They are acting as if they do not live in this
country, do not hear the news and do not read the papers.
Imagine if such investigations had been conducted against a
Shas MK, for example. The most sophisticated earplugs would
provide little protection against the shrill outcries from
Lapid, Paritzky, Poraz and the rest of Shinui's hypocritical
gang. They would have blackened his reputation ruthlessly.
Yet here we have a case of the silence of the lambs in
exchange for five government ministries, a coalition without
chareidim, drastic cuts in Children's Allowances, yeshivas,
Torah institutions and chareidi culture, the closure of the
Ministry of Religious Affairs, the dismantling of the
religious councils, a body blow to religious services and the
transfer of rabbinate courts to their control. Now Shinui
sees no evil.
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