Netanyahu hasn’t decided on dividing Beit Shemesh

Yacimovich: PM shouldn’t surrender Zionism to haredim.

December 29, 2011 02:11
2 minute read.
haredi women in Beit Shemesh|

haredi women in Beit Shemesh_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu distanced himself on Wednesday from the idea of solving haredi-secular tensions in Beit Shemesh by formally dividing the city in two.

Yediot Aharonot reported that Netanyahu had raised the idea with Shas leaders Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias.

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Sources close to the prime minister confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that the idea was raised but they said it was unlikely it would be accepted.

“He hasn’t decided,” a Netanyahu associate said. “He will listen to all possible ideas for solutions before making a decision.”

But others familiar with the situation accused Netanyahu of floating a trial balloon and dropping it when he saw that it was unpopular.

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich called dividing Beit Shemesh dangerous and said Israel should be enforcing its laws rather than coming up with such ideas.

“According to this idea, it is possible to divide Israel into several countries with different worldviews,” Yacimovich said. “The country’s leadership is supposed to unite Israel’s diverse population.

Dividing Beit Shemesh is tantamount to waving a white flag over the entire Zionist enterprise.”

The Beit Shemesh Municipality also slammed the idea.

“The suggestion to divide Beit Shemesh is not realistic from a technical standpoint because the neighborhoods of different populations are spread out over different areas across the city,” a municipal spokesman said. The spokesman said the suggestion was a political ploy by parties worried about losing control of the city.

He pointed out that demographics have shifted in other cities, such as Rosh Ha’ayin, but no one has tried to split that city as it became more secular.

Activist Rabbi Dov Lipman, of the Committee to Save Beit Shemesh, expressed tentative support for the idea, pending more details.

“The fact that the prime minister is exploring ideas is a step in the positive direction,” Lipman said. He added that there were many haredi residents of Beit Shemesh who would probably choose to live in the non-haredi areas to avoid extremism.

“In general, in the country, if there are haredim who are not able to live in peace with everyone else, then they should build neighborhoods for themselves and then we could build neighborhoods for everyone else,” Lipman said.

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