Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Kislev 5766 - December 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Special Interests Reign Supreme

by E. Rauchberger

Israel's political establishment was not breathlessly awaiting the results of this week's Likud primaries. In the end Binyamin Netanyahu was elected chairman, but it would have made little difference if Silvan Shalom had won: the Likud will remain the same Likud.

What really matters is taking place behind the scenes in both the Likud and Labor Parties where attempts are being made to set up an alternative to Sharon, a government that would serve until the original election date in another 11 months. From a legal standpoint there is no problem making such a move in the next week.

At first the idea may seem a bit unrealistic. The election train has already pulled out of the station and nothing can stop it. But in politics special interests reign supreme. As soon as interests come into play anything could happen. Even the most unlikely alliance can form between parties that share absolutely nothing in common other than mutual hatred and the will to survive. And this can even stop a bullet train.

Although recent opinion surveys showed Kadima's momentum has begun to subside, it still remains the leading party. The Likud, Shinui, NRP, HaIchud HaLeumi, Yisrael Beiteinu and even Meretz are trying to figure our how to stop Sharon and Kadima. Or maybe they are just jealous. Sharon is thrashing all of them in the polls and they would be willing to go to great lengths to alter the present situation. Many of the current MKs know that they will be out of a job after the elections.

One possibility is to set up an alternative government in order to send Sharon to the opposition and dry him up there over the course of almost a whole year. This would deliver a severe blow to him and his new party. Sharon and his supporters know such a move could wipe them out politically, turning Kadima into another Center Party with 4-6 mandates.

It all comes down to the opinion polls. If Labor continues to flounder around the 20-mandate mark and Kadima continues to lead with 35-40 mandates this option will start to go forward.

Kadima's sweeping success does not bode well for the chareidi sector either. After the elections a very dangerous coalition could form, leading to decrees that would make today's situation pale in comparison.

The chareidi public would have nothing to lose and could gain if an alternative government took over for a year, bringing the political establishment back to its senses and restoring the tradition of one bloc against another with the chareidi parties in the middle, maneuvering among the different blocs.

Generals Cross the Lines

Just one day after touring the shuk in Tel Aviv to promote his campaign for the Likud primaries, and half a day after dispatching 130,000 letters asking Likud voters for their support, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz crossed the lines and moved to Kadima, the rival party.

Although anything goes in Israeli politics, a figure serving in such a high office and hoping to head the national government is expected to act with a bit more moderation. By the time Likud voters received the letters from Mofaz they were already meaningless—except for what they tell us about the man and what he is made of.

Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin, a seasoned Likudnik, said the Likud Party rolled out the red carpet for Mofaz, but now he is going to learn what politics is all about. And he's right.

Sharon did not want Mofaz in Kadima now. Mofaz begged and pleaded. He sent messengers and called on the phone. But Sharon did not want to hear from him. He was upset with his defense minister for not joining him from the start and even more annoyed by the projectiles he had been firing over the course of three weeks as part of his campaign to win the Likud chairmanship. Mofaz accused Sharon of becoming a Leftist and an Oslo man. Sharon felt betrayed and when Sharon feels betrayed the alleged betrayer better keep his distance.

But then Mofaz picked up the phone and sent his old friend Dov Weisglass, who told Sharon he should settle accounts with Mofaz at a later time and for the time being concentrate on settling accounts with the Likud and dismantle it from the inside, grinding it into little pieces until Netanyahu is left with only Feiglin.

Sharon realized right away that Weisglass was right and gave a green light to bring in Mofaz, even at the cost of a promise to keep him in the Defense Ministry when he sets up the next government. But if somebody thinks Sharon is really committed to Mofaz he may be in for a surprise. Sharon subscribes to the notion made famous by former Prime Minister Shamir: "I may have promised, but I didn't promise to keep my promise." And Sharon knows how to renege on promises without batting an eyelid.

Mofaz would be well advised to prepare himself for the possibility of seeing the defense portfolio offered to someone else. He will then have a choice between joining the government in a lesser post or going to Reuven Rivlin and asking him for some lessons on how to cope with real-life politics. And Rivlin, by the way, has the benefit of experience.

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