Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Nisan 5766 - April 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
On the Way to Forming a New Government

The main issue occupying Israel these days is the formation of a government. Although not all the details are known and some are still subject to change, the general outlines are clear.

It will be a big, broad government, including Kadima, the largest party, as well as Labor, the second largest party. In addition it will probably include Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and the Pensioners Party. All told that would be 84 MKs, over two-thirds of the Knesset membership. With such a large number in the government, any threats to the coalition would have to come from within, if parties are not satisfied.

The line that seems to be drawn between those in and those out is political pragmatism. Kadima is a completely opportunistic party drawn together from what had been considered opposing ends of the political spectrum: senior members of both Likud and Labor. As founded by Sharon, what drew them together was a willingness to follow Sharon in pursuing progress towards calm and stability without any other preconceived notions as what it would look like, and especially without any concern about reaching an agreement with the Palestinians and what any possible agreement might include.

It was Sharon's innovation to take big steps he thought necessary to improve Israel's security without worrying too much about political correctness. No one before him had considered withdrawing without some sort of political agreement with the Palestinians. Politically it certainly makes no sense to give your adversary some of what he wants without getting anything in return. Sharon made the argument that the importance of security can override all normal political rules. The problems, as is well known, were that Sharon did not bother to convince the people that withdrawing from Gaza would, in fact, improve security, and also that not enough attention was devoted to the needs of those who were withdrawn from their homes of 30 years.

Olmert promises to continue Sharon's policies. He has said that he wants to conduct further withdrawals from Yehuda and Shomron. It is not clear that this was Sharon's plan. In fact many times the former prime minister said that he would not make any further unilateral withdrawals — though Sharon had been known to change his mind. Much will depend on what happens inside of the Palestinian Authority over the next months and years: even under the best circumstances it would not be a stable government, and all the outside forces are combining to stress the outlaw Hamas leadership by withholding support. It is far from certain that Olmert will want to make any further unilateral moves a year from now, and even less likely that all of his coalition partners will in fact support him if he does want to do so.

Olmert is a seasoned politician but not a very inspiring person. It remains to be seen how capable a leader he is, and how he will deal with real opposition.

One of the big issues for UTJ is to restore some of the unfair cuts that were made in financial support for the chareidi community. These were made as a political and ideological statement by the now-defunct Shinui party which was a senior partner in the previous coalition.

Cuts were made across a broad front: support for chareidi education for all ages (which is still a separate budget item and not part of the base like education for all other Israeli children), support for poor chareidi families, and also the universal child support payments (Bituach Leumi) that benefit chareidi families because they tend to be large. Shas tried to make progress on restoring the universal child support, but it seems to have abandoned that effort after running into strong opposition from all sides. They will be considered successful if they can even prevent further scheduled cuts.

The universal child support benefits are very visible and draw strong opposition. They also benefit all sectors of the population that have large families. Perhaps the wisest approach is to concentrate on less prominent programs that are important to the chareidi community like support for education and housing subsidies. Overall the community can probably do better if it concentrates on areas that do not stimulate the hatred of those who oppose chareidi growth.

Very often the results are unexpected, especially when it comes to Eretz Yisroel and Am Yisroel. The politicians and military leaders have much less influence than the secular think or imagine.

Our task is to improve ourselves in avodas Hashem. That is the best guarantee of a good future.

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