Beyond the Cusp

March 11, 2013

Shas Reacts Facing the Unthinkable

In the entire history of the state of Israel, Shas has been included as part of the ruling coalition ever since its inception going into elections for the eleventh Knesset without concern for the political alignment, be it right, left, Zionist or any other conceivable alignment except for the sixteenth Knesset under Prime Minister Sharon. This has made the leadership of the Shas Party begin to expect that they would be included in every government going forward as they have proven to be loyal members of coalitions led by Labor or Likud and anyone inbetween. As such, the Shas leadership now has to deal with not being included in the next ruling coalition for only the second time since their inception and they are definitely not pleased with this situation. This begs the question of whether or not any party can rightfully view themselves as indispensable to any ruling coalition and what leads the membership of Shas to have such beliefs.

 

It is actually understandable why Shas has been able to join governing coalitions without regard to most of the political considerations which affect other parties. Shas is only beholden to the Sephardic Haredi population and as such has a very narrow definition of concerns. With such a specific and narrowly defined membership, Shas can be accommodated in any governing coalition without sacrificing any of the more secular principles which often go into the formation of a coalition. Shas would appear to favor more religious Jewish values which are also considered to be at least in part the basics for Likud, Labor and most of the other Israeli Jewish political parties and as such pose no difficulties for the inclusion of Shas in a government. Simply all the major party forming a coalition need implement to have Shas as a member party is to grant them the demands for Torah worship funding including stipends for their adult students, especially those with families, so they may study full time and not need to hold employment and also give those students of Torah deferment from military or public service requirements. This had not been a problem as it had been established through the Tal Law. That came crashing down when Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch annulled the Tal Law as a parting gift when she stepped down from her position. The Tal Law was in need of replacement as the Haredi portion of the Israeli society has grown to the point where it is becoming unfeasible to continue to carry them on the backs of the rest of the country and excuse them from any responsibility solely so they are free to study Torah and only study Torah. The transition had already shown the early signs of stirrings and would have been accomplished, albeit slowly, but it was being addressed. By annulling the Tal Law the government was faced with a pressing situation which more resembled a crisis than having to address a gradual change altering perceptions over time. This made Shas the political hot potato of this election cycle and was further exacerbated by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party making the immediate enlistment and end of deferrals for almost all Torah students which placed them totally at odds with Shas. This led to a predicament where only one of the two political parties would be able to join the ruling coalition if either were to be included. As Lapid reached an agreement with Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party that they would join their Knesset seats together and join a coalition or the opposition as one party. This left Prime Minister Netanyahu with a choice, either include both Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party or allow Shas to join his coalition. Apparently Shas will end up on the losing end of such a choice.

 

The resulting anger and recriminations which have emanated from the Shas membership and leadership both during the campaign and the ensuing coalition negotiations has been, shall we say, less than cordial or polite. Their vindictive rhetoric towards Yair Lapid and his party’s secular core which demanded equal sharing of the burden was predictable but their venomous outpourings at Naftali Bennett did come as a surprise to some, especially members of the Jewish Home Party. It will remain to be seen if the uncomely actions and accusations from some Shas members, particularly their newly returned leader, Aryeh Deri, have shocked many and left a rather putrid aroma over the whole coalition building scene. Their demands and appearance of feeling owed a position in the next government would affect adversely any regular party in upcoming elections. Not so Shas as their support comes from a close knit community which is obliged by their Rabbis to vote for Shas and without considerations of anything other than supporting their community at the expense of all else. This is part of why they are immune to normal influences that might cripple other parties and why they appear to garner the same portion of Knesset seats election after election. It will remain to be seen if the discipline to keep the members of Shas dependent upon their party once their insular community is no longer supported separate from the rest of Israeli society. Once they are no longer permitted universal deferment from IDF or public service it is possible that their world and societal views may change and outside influences may forever alter their previously closed society.

 

There is one item that also must be addressed if one is to be fair to the Haredi community. They have not exactly been accepted with open arms by those outside their community. Where there may be some credibility to the excuse that the Haredi have not exactly made enormous efforts to be accepted by the outside society, those outside of the Haredi community share at least an equal amount of blame for not making the Haredi accepted or make efforts to make the outside world accessible for the strictly religious. The lack of understanding has been shared by both sides of this debate and any solution is going to require sacrifices and efforts by both communities. Where the Haredi community has been portrayed by the secular media and secular society as a bunch of freaks living in a backwards and exclusive community, there has not exactly been any real efforts made to make the secular society accessible to the Haredi or to be sensitive to their culture and societal rules and standards. Much of the public discussion has been of a nature to criticize the Haredi with little effort put forth towards understanding and acceptance. The Haredi have just as much right to live according to traditional rules as the secular society has to ignore those very same rules which their ancestors no more than a few short generations ago lived by. That is the one small fact that many in the secular community ignore that they are not that far removed from the exact same societal structures and strict rules of the Haredi in their own families. Where it is true that the Haredi are going to need to join Israeli society and start to pull their fair share of the burden, it is also going to be necessary that the secular make adjustment which allows the Haredi to share the burden while not forcing them to abandon their principles and traditions. It is a two way street and neither side is going to be able to demand of the other that they forfeit their way of life and the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. If both are to share the burden, then both will also be burdened with making Israel a place which respects and accommodates both in equal amounts. The extent to which such accommodations and adjustments are made will be the measure to the tolerance and respect both societies are able to grant the other. The one truth is that the future of Israel is dependent upon a shared effort and interest in working together instead of competing for prevalence.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 22, 2013

Riding a Rollercoaster with Netanyahu

Going all the way back to the first time Benyamin Netanyahu was elected as Prime Minister in June of 1996  we get to experience the entirety of his position swings during different points and when under varying stresses. Some of the highest points on the ride are when he has made speeches especially those before the United Nations, the United States Congress or when speaking before Jewish groups as the main speaker who is also the guest of honor. These have been Bibi at his best where he has stated the Israeli Zionist positions with elegance, bravado, style, and persuasion. His campaign rhetoric is almost as grand and has a quality of promise and hope that Bibi Netanyahu will be the kind of Zionist with strong Jewish roots and values that supporters desire in their Prime Minister. When many Israelis cast their votes for the Likud and Benyamin Netanyahu that is the person for whom they are casting their vote. That unfortunately is not the person who often appears in the Prime Minister’s office after the election.

 

Some of the lowest points on the rollercoaster ride with Netanyahu were such as his Bar Ilan Speeches where he capitulated in some measure to pressures from foreign leaders often including any number of European and United Nations dignitaries also including leaders from the United States, especially the President. The promises he offered in both those speeches left many Israelis feeling like they were left only with broken promises from the past election and were no longer assured of the positions represented by the man in the Prime Minister’s office, though it did look like the same Bibi they had elected. Possibly the lowest point in the ride was when Prime Minister Netanyahu capitulated to the demands and deceits imposed upon him by President Obama and the Ten Month Building Freeze on our lands was announced and imposed upon all Israel. The reasoning behind our saying it was placed on all of Israel and not solely on the areas of Samaria and Judea is simple; due to the expensive end to building in these areas there became a great shortage of housing and prices shot up sharply affecting all of Israel. Nothing imposed upon our country’s people living past the Green Line affect only those past the Green Line; it will affect all of us. Israel is far too small nation in size that anything can truly be local, almost anything will end up having nation-wide effects. Thus the Ten Month Building Freeze may have been directed at Samaria and Judea, but it was imposed in reality on all of Israel in the end.

 

Between the times when Bibi Netanyahu is hitting the campaign trail and sounding very much as we would wish any potential Prime Minister to sound and those periods where he is bent and twisted to the breaking point by the pressures every Prime Minister of Israel is bound to face, we have your basic rollercoaster ride with its peaks and valleys. Add in those superb appearances before the world and speaking freely before those who generally or specifically support Israel and you have momentary peaks which seem almost unscalable. Then there are the opposing moments when Bibi falters and we visit the screaming fall into the dark valleys at the bottom of the tracks wondering if the entirety of the rollercoaster cars will crash off from the tracks and shatter everything onto the hard ground below. Such are the moments when we are left wondering where the man who spoke so wondrously with eloquence and bravery just a few weeks back went and how he could have faltered so completely. Possibly quite fortunately none of us will ever be forced to face such pressures and calamities that are often imposed and thrust upon the leader of the State of Israel. Sometimes we must think and wonder if there are any who might perform with any greater assurance and firmness.

 

But the question we are all asking is where is this rollercoaster heading? We are all wondering if we will continue to climb a while longer or are we about to take another of those spills down into the depths of the ride once more. Many are unsure as the campaign this time was not as filled with soaring eloquence but rather was somewhat unsettling and leaves us wondering exactly what was promised us not only by Likud, but by Bibi Netanyahu himself. Many were troubled by the call for building a centered governing coalition which was more inclusive than idealistic. If we remember the last time we were promised balance and a new approach that would take Israel forward to a more peaceful future we got something that has not delivered. That was the promise we received from the Likud Prime Minister who later gave us the present of Kadima which also produced Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. This was also the government under whose guidance we unilaterally disengaged from Gaza forcing many thousands of Jewish families from their homes, synagogues, businesses, farms, communities, and their lives as they had built them over many years. This was the government whose decisions led Israel to the terror and horror of near continuous rockets raining down on ever increasing areas of southern communities eventually striking on the edges of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These are important facts which must never be forgotten. These were dangerous ideas and actions which can never be allowed again.

 

So, where do we stand and which Bibi Netanyahu is presently formulating a new governing coalition and choosing the path his new governing coalition will be taking? We have little evidence, but we can look at the little we do possess and try to gain a hint at the picture being painted. We do know who was the first party to be joining with Likud-Beiteinu, and that was Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua (“The Movement”) Party. Along with giving Tzipi Livni the prestigious Justice Ministry which Yair Lapid had desired according to reports, but Prime Minister Netanyahu also granted Ms. Livni’s demand that she be appointed to lead any delegation which would negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. As the old advertising ploy said, but wait, there’s more. Taking this step and allowing Tzipi Livni to hold such office and also have the lead position in negotiations with the Palestinians where she has stated her position as willing to sacrifice virtually all the lands past the Green Line, uproot all the Jewish people residing there, and return half of Jerusalem including the entire Old City if needed if that is what is required to attain a settlement with the Palestinians will make having HaBayit HaYehudi (Israel Home) Party joining the coalition next to impossible. This also would very likely also apply to the hope of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (Future) Party joining any coalition with such intentions. When also including the lack of contact with both HaBayit HaYehudi and Yesh Atid and the apparent intent made by Netanyahu to court Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich to reverse her promise to never join a Party headed by Netanyahu and form a left of center coalition, could this be actually Bibi Netanyahu’s honest intent?

 

This would be an even harsher reality than when a previous Likud Prime Minister left Likud in order to chase his place in the history books and formed Kadima to conduct his treachery. Should Prime Minister Netanyahu form such a coalition, it would beg the rather impressive and important question; would Likud remain Likud and even if the name continued with Netanyahu, would everybody remain on board or would they seek new pastures? Then if many of the Zionist members of Likud decided to abandon Likud, where would they go, their own new party or join another existing party likely HaBayit HaYehudi with Naftali Bennett. If they were to join Naftali Bennett and Moshe Feiglin also left Likud for HaBayit HaYehudi, then there might be a very interesting and intriguing leadership situation going forward. What has been most confusing has been the number of members within the leadership of Likud and among its members who have intimated that Naftali Bennett will join as if he has no other options. Meanwhile, there have been rumors that HaBayit HaYehudi has restarted their campaign committee in preparations for the possibility that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be unable to form a government. This may come down to whether or not Shas and United Torah can also be brought into the coalition and a compromise be made with Livni and Shelly not to bolt in reaction to Shas being brought onboard. This would also require some grand compromise on the forced service in the IDF of Haredi full time Torah students. However the next few weeks play out, the rollercoaster ride with Netanyahu is about to enter some wild gyrations, sweeping turns, sweeping highs, shattering lows, and who can imagine the rest of the twists which are sure to come. Advice, you want advice? Hold on for your life and pray, pray a lot.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

January 26, 2013

Palestinians Couch Demands in New Hopes for Israeli Surrender After Elections

The Palestinian leadership has greeted the coming of a new Israeli coalition with new partners such as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party likely joining new government ruling factions with expressions of hope that the Israeli response will be adjusted making peace talks more viable. Their spoken optimisms are nothing but fodder for the Europeans, United Nations, leftist NGOs, and others who are always at the ready to condemn and blame Israel for the lack of negotiations. The Palestinian statements were slanted in such a manner as to imply that with the new government in Israel that the reasons that negotiation have failed to materialize may now be resolved. Unfortunately, the obstacles to renewing the peace process are not existent on the Israeli side but are solely due to the Palestinian intransigence. The real obstacle to the resumption of the peace talks is the insistence by Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership demanding that Israel surrender to Palestinian demands on every single final status issue as well as numerous other demands. Mahmoud Abbas, who has not stood for election despite his term ending back in January 2009, stands immovable as President of the Palestinian government still making the same demands which he has hidden behind using them as a shield against negotiating as he knows he lacks the power to even stand for election, let alone impose any agreement reached with the Israelis if it contained even the slightest compromise on any issue. Abbas further knows that the minute he establishes a Palestinian entity with defined borders comprising an area completely and absolutely inviolable by Israeli security forces that Hamas will take over in a coup and he would be fortunate to escape with his freedom and possibly even his life as he would definitely be incarcerated and very probably executed as a direct consequence.

Perhaps taking a look at some of the quotes and then translating them from Pali-speak to common language would assist in understanding the realities behind their grandstanding. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a statesperson of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), stated, “The Palestinian leadership watches the results of the Israeli elections with great interest, and we think that these elections constitute a new chance for the Israelis to express themselves.” Speaking to AFP, he added, “We are willing to open a dialogue with those Israeli parties who are ready. We extend a political invitation to Israeli parties, particularly the new ones among them, to open a dialogue before the formation of a new government”

Translation, <I> “The Palestinian leadership is going to use the results of the Israeli elections as a prop as we restate the same tired old demands which everybody recognizes Israel cannot agree to grant and continue to exist. But because the Israeli government just experienced an election, something we holding power over Palestinian society would never be so foolish as to allow as we like our positions of power and the graft and other rewards we are able to steal, we will claim that they are missing a perfect opportunity to renew the negotiation. Of course we are ignoring that the real obstruction to renewing the peace process lies with our refusal to meet without preconditions. We also know that the preconditions are just a ploy to assure that there will be no resumption of peace talks. But even though we and almost the entire world realize this truth, we are counting of the Europeans and the leftists and anarchists to carry our water for us and add their voices to ours in blaming the Israelis. Then we will allow the liberal press, especially Haaretz in Israel, the New York Times in America, the AFP in France, the BBC in Britain, and Al-Jazeera from the Arab World to all join in reporting our optimism and then condemn Israel on cue when we state how we regret that Israel still refuses to surrender, oops, I mean negotiate.” </I>

To cast aside all doubts of the translation provided above, Yasser Abed Rabbo also pleaded,<I> in any interaction, especially with the new parties who have yet to play our game and especially as we have heard that Yair Lapid might be a liberal and thus susceptible to our ploys, we hope to </I>“discuss the bases on which it is possible to negotiate and the result that we seek from these negotiations.” <I>And if all goes as we hope it will be possible that </I>“We extend a political invitation to Israeli parties, particularly the new ones among them, to open a dialogue before the formation of a new government,”<I> We do this as once they have spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu they will be educated in the devious manner in which we speak of things we do not mean and mean things of which we dare not speak. We have to get there and fool them before they are educated.</I> Somehow, as Yair Lapid was a news anchor; I seriously doubt he is not aware of the games played by the Palestinian leadership. Lapid also during the campaign struck us as being an actual, bonafide, real-life moderate with truly centrally-positioned views. His views appeared to tend towards a Zionist leaning concerning Judea, Samaria, and Israeli dealings with the Arab World while taking a more liberal tilt supporting universal service and a wide encompassing socials support system. These are simply our impressions and, to be honest, we are going to hold any conclusions until we have seen what he and those from his list act and vote in the Knesset and which portfolios they desire to hold and how they execute such powers.

In conclusion, we would like to extend our sympathies to the Palestinian leadership as Tzipi Livni had the bottom fall out on election night and received a mere six seats. Tzipi will have little say though she will likely make tons of noise, most of it to condemn Prime Minister Netanyahu and to oppose everything he does, and that includes things she might have actually supported but once Bibi decides he favors it, she will instinctively oppose it, she cannot help herself. We would also like to wish the new government great tidings of support and the wisdom to serve the people honestly, intelligently and with compassion and humility. May your feet be guided by the light of Torah and may all your endeavors be worthy of the L0rd’s blessings.

Beyond the Cusp

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