Coalition agreement leaves Haredim out in the cold

Shas co-leader Arye Deri says first job of party in opposition would be to bring down the new government.

March 13, 2013 23:35
3 minute read.
Arye Deri at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.

Arye Deri at the President's residence 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The formation of the new coalition finalized the exclusion of both the mainstream haredi parties from the government for the first time since 2006 and for only the third time since the establishment of Shas. 

Rumors swirled through the airwaves on Wednesday afternoon that Likud would bring in the haredi parties at the last moment if Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party would not back down on their demands but the threat was apparently made in vain.

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The influential ministries that Shas in particular held during the last Knesset, including Interior, Housing and Religious Services, as well as the powerful Finance Committee held by United Torah Judaism, have now been stripped away from the haredi parties.

In addition, their power to control the destiny of their own community, especially in regard to crucial matters such as haredi military enlistment, has been greatly diminished by their demotion to opposition and their inability to threaten the stability of the coalition.  

And the success of Yesh Atid in taking the Ministry for Education will be taken by the haredi political parties as the final insult of this election cycle.

Yesh Atid has placed education at the heart of its party platform and seeks to enforce the teaching of core curriculum subjects in haredi schools, a policy that will rouse deep opposition from haredi society. 

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, a source within the United Torah Judaism party described Shai Piron, the incoming Education Minister, as “the most dangerous man in Israel for the haredi community.”

“The basis of haredi society is the religious education it gives its children,” the official said. “That’s what defines our identity, but Piron wants to coercively impose his education ideas on us.”

Elementary schools in the haredi education system receive between 55% and 75% of the budget for non-haredi school budget, and are expected to teach respective proportions of the state core curriculum. In practice this is extremely rare.

However, it was reported earlier this week that one of the principles Yesh Atid succeeded in including in the coalition agreement was its insistence on haredi schools teaching core curriculum subjects, with the possibility of defunding schools which refuse to do so.

The haredi parties are also concerned about the future of funding for their yeshivot, which may be under threat from the incoming minister of education.

Their fears on this count may be ameliorated however if the budget for yeshivot is transferred from the Education Ministry to the Religious Services Ministry as demanded by Bayit Yehudi, and which, as of Wednesday morning, seemed probable.

MK Eli Ben-Dahan, a rabbi from the conservative Tkuma party of the Bayit Yehudi faction, will take control of the Ministry for Religious Services as Deputy Minister and acting Minister and is more likely to maintain current levels of yeshiva funding than Piron.

Several of the most senior conservative national-religious rabbis have in the past week called on Bayit Yehudi to “guard the Torah world” and protect yeshiva students from the military draft.

Joint Shas leader and outgoing Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote on his Facebook page that there had been a chance to form a government that would have “represented the entire population of Israeli society,” but that the incoming politicians had wanted a government without haredim.

“I can’t see how the prime minister will be able to lead the country with all its variety while he is held captive to the caprice and hatred of the incoming axis,” Yishai continued.

Speaking on Channel 2, Shas co-leader Arye Deri claimed that the haredi parties had not be involved in the negotiation process in a serious manner throughout the entire two month period and said that people are “no longer embarrassed to say ‘I don’t want haredim in government.’”

He said the first job of the party along with the rest of the Opposition would be “to bring down the government.”

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