Liberman and Deri face off on Facebook

After Shas shelves anti-conversion ad, Yisrael Beytenu head notes bill was supported by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, chief rabbi.

January 14, 2013 14:01
3 minute read.
Shas conversions election ad

Shas conversions election ad 370. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)


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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 Center-Left.

The background was the parties’ fight over national attitudes on issues of religion and state, specifically conversion and civil unions.

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.

It broadcasted 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.

In 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 wrote.

“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.

“Someone like you knows that the Torah itself repeats 36 times the prohibition of offending converts.”

Liberman also pointed out that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had given his approval for Yisrael Beytenu’s proposed legislation on conversions.

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.

“Rabbi 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.

“We are 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 Liberman.

“Who and what will be harmed from the decrees that you are hiding? Drugs for the elderly, education and welfare [budgets]?”

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