Shas accepted into World Zionist Organization

Haredi Sephardi party agrees to change political platform to include the principles of the 2004 Jerusalem Program.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
January 20, 2010 07:46
2 minute read.
ovadia yosef 88

ovadia yosef 88. (photo credit: )

 
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The World Zionist Organization, the embodiment of secular Zionist ideology, has accepted the haredi Sephardi Shas party's request to be accepted as a full-fledged member in a vote taken Monday.

Two weeks ago, Shas's Council of Torah Sages, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, approved the move to join the WZO.

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WZO Treasurer Hagai Merom told the organization's executive that Shas's leadership had agreed to change its political platform to include the principles of the 2004 Jerusalem Program which includes "strengthening Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and shaping it as an exemplary society with a unique moral and spiritual character, marked by mutual respect for the multi-faceted Jewish people, rooted in the vision of the prophets, striving for peace and contributing to the betterment of the world."

"This is an historic development in which Shas, a haredi party, is joining the WZO, and, in effect the Zionist movement," said Merom.

Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi, who is executive director of Shas, told The Jerusalem Post Monday night that Shas had always been a Zionist political party.

"We just had to change a few clauses in the party's platform," he said.

Asked if Shas could cooperate with non-Orthodox streams of Judaism that are also members in the WZO, Margi said that there were two different approaches to the issue.



"One theory holds that we cannot participate in congresses with them or vote with them on different issues," he said. "But the other school of thought holds that when Shas enters the WZO, it dilutes the influence of other movements, including Reform and Conservative. That was the approach that was adopted."

Margi said Diaspora communities that identify with Shas had put pressure on the party to join the WZO.

"All over South and Central America, there are communities that are very connected with Shas," said Margi. "They watch Rabbi Yosef's lecture via satellite and they refer halachic questions to Maran [Yosef] as well."

While some pluralist and dovish movements opposed allowing Shas into the WZO, the religious-Zionist World Mizrachi movement backed the move, even though Shas will now be competing with Mizrachi for votes and for funding.

Former National Religious Party MK Yigal Bibi, who recently defected to Shas, persuaded Yosef that joining the WZO would be in the party's best interests.

"This could be a disaster for us politically, but I believe you have to be fair," said Mizrachi's Gael Grunewald, who heads the WZO's Hagshama Department.

Shas will at first function as part of a coalition with World Likud.

It was recently reported that due to budgetary difficulties the WZO was forced to postpone the election of its 580-member congress.

The congress will convene in June to select a new head of the WZO, who is now likely to be a member of Likud due to the deal with Shas.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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