Shas MKs absent from list of visitors at Harav Yeshiva

Students not likely to welcome members of Olmert gov't.

yishai looks up 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yishai looks up 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Shas ministers and MKs have been conspicuously absent from the list of politicians that have come to Mercaz Harav Yeshiva to express their condolences over the murder of the eight students who were killed in last week's terror attack. Visiting the yeshiva - which is considered the flagship educational institution of the religious Zionist movement - has become a sort of litmus test to determine loyalty to the Zionist ethos of Greater Israel. On Monday, members of both the Likud and the National Religious Party-National Union were welcomed at the yeshiva. And on Sunday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter met with institution's heads. Although Dichter is a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party, his relatively right-wing political views and his experience as head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) made him a welcome guest. In contrast, Education Minister Yuli Tamir - one of the founders of Peace Now - was verbally attacked the same day by dozens of yeshiva students, who shouted "murderer" when she came to pay her respects. A spokesman for Shas Party Chairman Eli Yishai did not rule out a visit to the yeshiva in coming days and pointed out that many Shas MKs were planning to visit the mourning families. Shas ministers and MKs also took part in the funeral on Friday. Sources in the yeshiva admitted that were Shas MKs to visit, they would not be attacked the way Tamir was on Sunday. However, they estimated that yeshiva students were likely to express vocal criticism against Shas's support for the government. The yeshiva leadership rejected outright overtures from Olmert's office to arrange a condolence visit. An official yeshiva source said that Olmert was not welcome because he supported parceling out pieces of the Land of Israel. "The negotiations with the Palestinians launched after Annapolis are endangering the lives of Jews here," said the source. "Talking about splitting the Land of Israel encourages Arab terrorists to carry out attacks. Olmert's policies are inimical to the Jewish people." Meanwhile, Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev, who is considered right-wing on territorial issues, said that he regularly heard sharp criticism against Shas for remaining in the government. "The day after the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, I received at least 10 phone calls from the US asking me how Shas could allow itself to support Olmert." Ze'ev said the only reason Shas remained in the government was because there was no better option. A spokesman for Communications Minister Ariel Attias said that while he had no plans to visit the yeshiva, Attias was planning to visit the families of the victims. In the previous elections, Shas enjoyed the support of many right-wing voters. The Sephardi haredi party reaped the benefits of having been left out of the government coalition before and during the Gaza disengagement. Although Shas's exclusion from then-prime minister Ariel Sharon's government was more a result of political jockeying and less due to ideological conviction, the very fact Shas had nothing to do with disengagement gave it an advantage. In bastions of the extreme Right, such as Kfar Chabad and Yeshivat Torat Haim - a religious Zionist institution that educates against army service and rejects Israel's secular leadership - Shas cashed in heavily. Meanwhile, the National Religious Party (NRP), which remained in Sharon's government until shortly before the implementation of the plan, was severely criticized and weakened. Even the more right-wing National Union, which left the government before the NRP, was blamed for allowing Sharon the political stability needed to implement the evacuation of the Jewish settlements in Gaza and North Samaria. But now with Olmert at least ostensibly pursuing peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Shas is losing the constituents it gained after disengagement.