The Shas triumvirate with the Likud Beytenu team 370.
(photo credit: Ya'acov Cohen)
Besides Kadima, that went from 28 to two Knesset seats, the big losers of these
elections appear to be Shas and United Torah Judaism, even though they together
have 18 seats in the new Knesset compared to 16 in the previous one.
two haredi parties are the losers because of the two new boys on the block – the
head of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, and the head of Bayit Yehudi, Naftali Bennett.
Each for some of the same reasons preferred to see the haredi parties outside
the government – and they have prevailed, much to Primer Minister Binyamin
The common reasons are that the haredim (the
ultra-Orthodox in particular the Ashkenazi ones) are unwilling to consider any
significant increase in the enlistment of their 18-year-olds to the army, even
if they are not bona fide yeshiva students, and while refusing to significantly
increase their share on the production side of the economy (again, especially
the Ashkenazi ones), are the most determined opponents of any decrease in social
benefits to large families. These reasons are connected to the idea of “equal
bearing of the burden” which is the main glue that keeps Yesh Atid and Bayit
The separate reasons for these two parties being
interested in keeping the haredim out of the 33rd government include the fact
that the national-religious camp (which Bayit Yehudi represents) wishes to
regain power positions in the religious establishment, which it has gradually
lost to the haredim and hardalim (national religious rabbis who in religious
terms have moved closer to the haredim).
The more radical secular camp
(which Yesh Atid represents) sees the haredi parties as an impediment to their
desire to strengthen rights considered the ABCs of Western liberal society such
as equality for women, individual freedom, including freedom from the religious
establishment when it comes to citizens’ personal status, public transportation
and other services on the Sabbath, etc. On these issues the Yisrael Beytenu
component of Likud Beytenu is in total agreement with Yesh Atid.
haredim have reacted to all this very badly, and seem determined to ignore the
objective issues involved.
Instead of addressing the issues the Ashkenazi
haredim accuse Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi of anti-Semitism, where “Semites” are
defined as Jews with black hats, a beard and sidelocks, while the Sephardim
accuse them of ethnic racism against the Mizrahim (both Yesh Atid and Habayit
Hayehudi are predominantly Ashkenazi). Though there are certainly no shortage of
anti-haredi and anti-Mizrahi prejudices in the Israeli society (the latter
especially within the Ashkenazi haredi community), these are definitely not the
reason for the insistence on keeping the haredim out of the
However what is even worse than the self-righteous haredi
claims of anti-Semitism and racism are some of the other elements of their
The two most outrageous aspects of this reaction are the sudden
“discovery” by both Ashkenazi and Sephardi haredim that the answer to Yair
Lapid’s rhetoric question “where’s the money?” is “in the settlements in Judea
In other words, the response to the fear that the “Torah
world” will be dried up financially, is to call for the financial drying up of
I am not exactly an avid supporter of the Jewish
settlements in the West Bank, and believe that too much money is invested in
settlements that are unlikely to remain within the sovereign territory of the
State of Israel.
However, I find this sudden ideological switch on the
part of the haredim repulsive, to the point of being willing to stand up for the
settlements (up to a point).
Another sickening manifestation of haredi
cynicism has been the sudden elevation of Shelly Yacimovich to the status of
saint. Suddenly the haredim have “discovered” that they are much closer
ideologically to Yacimovich than to Netanyahu. Suddenly the spiritual leader of
Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was willing to swallow his pride and offered to make a
pilgrimage to the leader of the only party perceived to have the power to
prevent the formation of the Netanyahu-Yair-Naftali-Tzipi government, and that
despite the fact that the old rabbi does not believe that women should play
If the Labor Party had agreed to join the government (and
Netanyahu was willing to offer Yacimovich up to “half the kingdom” to do so) the
haredim would have been “saved.” But Yacimovich was not game, and refused to go
back on her promise to her voters on the issue of refusing to join a government
led by Netanyahu. Unfortunately, she is now liable to pay a price for her
It has been reported that Shas is trying to convince the
Arab parties to have one of its triumvirate chosen to the post of leader of the
opposition (which has certain perks attached), rather than Yacimovich, who will
be the leader of the largest parliamentary group in the opposition.
will the long-run ramification of all this disgusting behavior be? It is hard to
predict. Certainly the haredim in opposition will continue to fight for budgets
for their institutions and flocks, and against moves designed to force their
youths into the IDF and/or labor market. Besides that, it is difficult to know
what will happen. Will the haredi parties undergo a metamorphosis? Will the
traditional Ashkenazi haredi leadership give way to a more pragmatic leadership,
that will also represent the interests of the so called “modern haredim,” who
are trying to make their out of the haredi ghetto? And what will happen to Shas
after Rabbi Ovadia, who will probably no longer be with us for the elections to
the 20th Knesset? Shas survived the desertion of two of its members, who ran in
the elections independently – rabbis Haim Amsalem and Amnon Yitzhak – partially
due to the old rabbi’s emotional and tearful appeal to Shas voters before the
Will Shas’s political leaders manage to prevent the party from
falling apart after the old rabbi is gone? Will Aryeh Deri return to his former
glory, and take Shas to more enlightened destinations? Whatever happens, there
certainly won’t be a dull moment, and in the meantime all that is left is to
wish the new haredi-less government that will apparently be sworn in later this
week all the best – for us all.
The writer is a former Knesset employee.