Defense Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Party
Chairman Amir Peretz barely had a chance to settle into the
armchair in his new office before troubles began — from
without and from within.
Peretz probably imagined he was coming to the Defense
Ministry to occupy a powerful, full-time position just like
his predecessors, including domineering political
heavyweights like David Ben Gurion, Levy Eshkol, Moshe Dayan,
Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ezer Weizman, Moshe Arens,
Ariel Sharon, Yitzchak Mordechai, Ehud Barak and Shaul
But Ehud Olmert has other plans in mind for him. He does not
intend to let Peretz grow and flourish — in order to
keep him from one day threatening his power. Olmert knows
who's running the show, in the Defense Ministry as well. When
he agreed to make Peretz Defense Minister what he really
meant is that Olmert himself would be Defense Minister and
Peretz would be at most Deputy Defense Minister, even if the
placard on the door says otherwise.
When Peretz, upon entering office, boldly spoke about
conducting negotiations with Abu Mazzen he got a swift tongue-
lashing from the Prime Minister's Office. And when he
announced plans to transfer NIS 50 million ($11 million) to
the PA the Prime Minister's Office did not even let him raise
the issue at the cabinet meeting.
Olmert would like Peretz to spend his time giving speeches,
attending ceremonies and responding to questions and agenda
proposals in the Knesset — but Peretz did not come to
the Defense Ministry to serve as a figurehead.
Sharansky has a Few Things to Learn
Natan Sharansky (Likud) recently tabled a bill to make Sunday
a day off, saying Friday is too short to pursue leisure
activities because of Shabbos.
In a press statement Sharansky states two main reasons for
the law: "First, to make the Israeli economy match the
international economy, which does not work on Sunday anyway."
The problem is the second reason given. The proposal "is of
tremendous social import for the continuation of religious
and secular duality in Israeli society. Through this law the
religious sector will be able to take part more actively in
cultural and leisure life, which it has not been able to
fully enjoy due to the sanctity of Shabbos. The religious
sector would have a worthwhile day of rest without
restrictions and would be a full partner in social life. The
theaters, athletic events, nature excursions, etc. have all
been in the hands of the secular public and this distortion
should be rectified."
Sharansky, it should be recalled, has tabled various
proposals to alter the religious status quo by opening
entertainment spots on Shabbos, operating public
transportation and limiting the prohibition against opening
businesses on Shabbos.
Mr. Sharansky, before you propose bills of this sort you
ought to take a course on the religious way of life in
The religious sector is careful to avoid all of these places
you think they would go to on Sunday if they had the day off.
We don't want to visit these places, not on Shabbos and not
on a weekday or any other day.
Neither do we want to be a partner in any way in secular
culture. Rather than drawing the obvious conclusions and
changing secular culture through a return to more
traditional, rooted ways, could someone be disillusioned
enough to think he can drag the religious sector into the
sewage pits that secular culture has created?
Mr. Sharansky, my dear sir, you come from the ranks of Soviet
immigrants; not long ago you headed an immigrant party and
you now occupy a spot designed to draw immigrant votes.
Please heed one little piece of good advice: Rather than
trying to legislate laws that undermine the Jewishness of the
State of Israel and seek to change longstanding conventions,
take care of a sector that is best known to you. They have
enough problems of their own.