Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Shevat 5766 - February 15, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Shinui's Wayward Path to Self-Destruction

by Betzalel Kahn

Shinui in the coalition only because of his desire to effect far-reaching changes, particularly in economics, and he was well aware that the chareidi parties would not support these moves. Whether or not this assessment is correct, at the beginning of the term Shinui, for the first time in the annals of the party, played a pivotal role in the government with four ministers and one deputy prime minister, Knesset committees and considerable influence on what took place in the country.

Netanyahu made his economic moves under the patronage of the Likud-Shinui-NRP axis. When his aggressive economic program came to an end, Sharon no longer needed Shinui. The prime minister was already looking forward to the upcoming elections and knew he would get nowhere with Shinui. He had taken them into his government by default in order to gain two years of control without undue shakeups.

They enjoyed the pleasures of power for a year-and-a-half until the summer of 5764 (2004) when coalition talks began between the Likud and United Torah Jewry. Some of those negotiation sessions were conducted between Likud representatives and Degel HaTorah representatives alone, leading to the impressive political maneuver of removing Shinui from the coalition while presenting it to the media as a party devoid of principles, a party driven only by a desire for job handouts and seats in the government.

"During this period, Likud representatives contacted Shinui," recalls MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, "and told them they were conducting open negotiations with UTJ and that the chareidim were placing very specific demands before the Likud. At the end of one of the negotiating sessions at Kfar Maccabia [a hotel in Ramat Gan] we reached an agreement for the total preservation of the status quo [on religious issues] in the country. I went out to the reporters and announced it. The media was in a state of shock. `Which government portfolios are you asking for?' they asked me and we told them we were demanding the Interior and Justice [Ministries, which were then occupied by Shinui ministers. The remark meant that Gafni wanted Shinui out but it was clear that UTJ did not expect or aspire to take over those ministries itself]. It was clear we meant Shinui was on its way out."

Deputy Minister Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz: "In interviews with the media and also during the negotiations with the Likud, I proclaimed that we intended to become members of the government through ministerial posts to induce them [Shinui] to leave the government after they had declared they would not sit together with us in the same government. I said that even if Shinui members were to do teshuvoh it would not be the same Shinui anymore, and of course they were in shock."

Lapid found himself in a real bind. He had to respond to the declarations made by Degel HaTorah representatives. On one hand, he heard that the Likud had reached an agreement with the chareidim on preserving the status quo, but on the other hand he heard the announcement regarding UTJ's entry into the government, which contradicted Shinui's stance, and he had to decide whether the party should resign.

The Shinui Council convened a meeting where chaos reigned. Lapid and Poraz defended themselves, claiming the party's interests were more important than politics and that Shinui must retain its seats in the government. They disgraced themselves for all to see. Men of supposed principle revealed themselves unwilling to give up their seats in the government.

"Then we suddenly announced that if Shinui remains in the government we would not join the coalition," says Rabbi Gafni. "We became the men of principle. The Shinui Council convened another meeting and decided not to resign from the government. Meanwhile our negotiations with the Likud were halted since we declared that we would not sit in a coalition with Shinui. This was based on a directive from Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita. I held that since the talks had reached a dead end there was no point in continuing to conduct negotiations. But Maran shlita instructed us to continue with the negotiations, even if there were no immediate results."

Rabbi Ravitz: "That was their first crash. Shinui took all the credit for leading the Likud, saying all along that Shinui was the one leading the government from the inside, and next time it would be the biggest party. Suddenly it was revealed to be a party without principles, that seats in the government were more important to them than anything else, at a time when they had not succeeded in advancing many of their bellicose proclamations."

The negotiations remained stuck in place until the budget talks arrived just over a year-and-a-half ago. The Likud began to conduct accelerated negotiations to gain UTJ's support for the budget and Rabbi Gafni and Rabbi Litzman held exhausting negotiations with Likud representatives, resulting in an additional NIS 300 million ($65 million) for Torah and education institutions. "The budget was brought before the Knesset," recounts Rabbi Gafni, "but Shinui opposed it because of the funding for the chareidim. The budget fell and then Sharon sent letters of dismissal to the Shinui ministers."

The shame was particularly caustic. Lapid, who had come across for nearly two years as Ariel Sharon's closest political ally, was suddenly forced to become the opposition chairman. During this period, before the budget was rejected and the Shinui ministers were fired, Ariel Sharon told Rabbi Gafni that he was sure the budget would eventually pass and the funding promised to the chareidim would be approved even if Shinui voted against the budget.

"And if they vote in favor of the budget what will you do?" Rabbi Gafni asked Sharon.

"Don't you worry," he replied, as if to say that if necessary he would find a different pretext to boot them from the coalition. In the end Sharon did rid himself of Shinui because of the party's vote against the budget, marking the beginning of the party's decline.

Just a few months earlier the Paritzky-Poraz scandal had been exposed, casting Shinui as a party with corrupt figures in its ranks. Today, according to recent opinion polls, the party is on the verge of total collapse, not to mention the astonishing vote in the Shinui Council two weeks ago in which Poraz lost his number-two spot and Lapid narrowly retained the party leadership. Lapid has since announced that he is leaving Shinui and that it is not worthy of voters' confidence.


Yated Ne'eman: Why did Sharon want to fire Shinui members after working with them for two years?

Rabbi Gafni: Sharon came to the conclusion he could not get anywhere with Shinui in the government. Their fall began when Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita instructed us to continue the negotiations with the Likud, even after I told him that there was no longer anything to negotiate. We held the talks with the Likud in a manner that brought down Shinui just as we had planned. There can be no mistaking or ignoring the fact all this happened due to the negotiations Degel HaTorah conducted with the Likud.

During the negotiations everyone was getting fed up with them. We disgraced them through the negotiations. They were disgraced in public opinion. They were disgraced within the Shinui Council. The media mocked them for being inconsistent.

From that time to the present we were in a state of Hashem yilocheim lochem ve'atem tacharishun. Ever since then I stopped responding to their attacks in the Knesset. Every time one of the Shinui MKs issued an anti- chareidi call in the Knesset I would dismiss it with a gesture and say out loud, "You're no longer relevant."

YN: And where did the hundreds of thousands of Shinui voters suddenly vanish to? Just three years ago they provided the party 15 mandates.

Rabbi Ravitz: What they did to themselves is much more significant. They caused the public to vomit them out. At first the public was willing [to go along with them] to a certain point in order to voice its hatred for the chareidim, but they simply went overboard to the point where articles could be found in the secular press, which is hardly suspect of love for chareidim, griping about what Shinui did to them with hatred towards Jews. Not just one article but things that were said recently by prominent secular figures. Shinui [supporters] began to see this a few months ago and they tried to change the [party] line, but it was too late. They no longer had enough time to play the hypocrites' game.

These are voters who despise chareidim but never imagined how far the hatred could go. They had a single message— hatred of chareidim—and this was translated in a very clear manner, i.e. "yeshiva boys to the army," various laws, the dismantlement of the Religious Affairs Ministry, etc. Back then their voters hated us, but nobody among the voters imagined where it would lead—to one of the great tragedies of the Jewish people. This hatred by Shinui leaders was not far from the Hitlerites' hatred toward the Jews. However they gave this [hatred] a harsh expression that Shinui was unable to implement in policies, and HaKodosh Boruch Hu helped them to come crashing down before they took other steps. But in terms of the depth of hatred, there is no difference between them and regular antisemitic hatred.


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