Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman and Arye Deri, joint leader of Shas,
squared off on Monday in a war of words and mutual acrimony on Facebook, with
each accusing the other of seeking to form a government with the
The background was the parties’ fight over national
attitudes on issues of religion and state, specifically conversion and civil
In recent days, Shas has campaigned strongly for “preserving the
Jewish character of the state” and has insisted on maintaining stringencies
imposed by the haredi establishment on the state conversion system while
denouncing the notion of civil unions in lieu of marriage.
a televised campaign ad
ostensibly criticizing Yisrael Beytenu’s conversion
policies as encouraging assimilation. The ad was widely denounced as racist and
portraying the immigrant Russian community with negative stereotyping.
his Facebook post. Liberman insisted his party was dedicated to “uniting the
Jewish people” in keeping with Jewish law.
“Arye my friend... just as I
like to sit with you in pleasant and fruitful discussion, I also have no problem
sitting with you in government, as we have done in the past,” Liberman
“Yet I couldn’t help but be angered by the campaign ad that Shas
made, which I personally call a horror movie that offended the dignity and
feelings of so many people, both in the immigrant community and among the
broader public in whose name they were offended,” he continued.
like you knows that the Torah itself repeats 36 times the prohibition of
Liberman also pointed out that Sephardi Chief Rabbi
Shlomo Amar had given his approval for Yisrael Beytenu’s proposed legislation on
He attached a photo of the legislative document for Yisrael
Beytenu MK David Rotem’s conversion bill, which bears Amar’s signature. The bill
remains frozen following a deal between Yisrael Beytenu and non-Orthodox
religious groups that objected to its terms and threatened to petition the High
Court of Justice for the state to recognize their conversions.
Ovadia Yosef, as you surely know, also gave his blessing to the bill and to
Rotem who advanced it,” Liberman continued, adding that he was proud of his
party’s efforts to “unite the Jewish people” through reaching out and helping
people of Jewish descent in Israel to become “an integral part of the Jewish
people according to Jewish law.”
The term “Jewish descent” refers to the
approximately 330,000 Israelis from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel
under the law of return but are not Jewish according to Jewish law, and to many
of their children.
Liberman also noted that former Sephardi chief rabbi
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron was a proponent of civil unions.
“Yisrael Beytenu is
not against Judaism; in fact the opposite [is true],” he claimed.
in favor of true Judaism, Judaism without political machinations, without
politicos and without gobetweens.”
Deri for his part ignored Liberman’s
remonstrations about the validity in Jewish law of his party’s conversion and
civil union legislation, saying he wanted to discuss the policy of the next
government on social and economic matters.
“Yvette, my friend,” opened
Deri, using Liberman’s oft-used Russian nickname, “let us sit today and finalize
the details of the [coming coalition] government.
We certainly have a lot
to talk about because you [and Likud] are not presenting any type of program to
the public, not diplomatic and not socioeconomic....”
The Shas co-leader
added that he “would be happy” if he heard that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu did not intend to raise the value added tax again after raising it
several months ago.
“I would be happy to know what you intend to cut from
the budget in order to deal with the giant budget deficit,” he said, addressing
“Who and what will be harmed from the decrees that you are
hiding? Drugs for the elderly, education and welfare [budgets]?”