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Not at any price

By Yosef Lapid

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's remark about the "wicked people" who forced Aryeh Deri to resign from the temporal leadership of Shas, even though in God's eyes Deri remains the chairman of Shas, is embarrassing to Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak and Meretz leader Yossi Sarid.Deri, with all his sins, is just a scapegoat. Sacrificing him allows One Israel and Meretz to pretend that the leaders of Shas have mended their evil ways, that the billions of shekels in their circular deals have done an about face, that the problem of conscripting yeshiva boys has been solved, that there is no longer any need for a constitution that will regulate the relationship between religion and state once and for all, that Rabbi Yosef has retracted the accusations he hurled at the judges in Israel, that all the scandals to which Shas has been linked have been cleaned up, that the trade in amulets, holy water, sorcery, dybbuks and the exploitation of the naive in nocturnal rituals at the graves of holy men has ceased, that the pirate radio stations that preach hatred of the secular have been closed down and that the horse trading in kashrut certificates has been ended. As if all this had never happened.

Is this the change that Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak promised his voters? Is this the alternative society Sarid wanted to establish? Everyone knows that nothing has changed, and now Rabbi Yosef comes along and admits: Shas must come into the coalition, because it has accumulated a debt of NIS 1000 million and who will provide what is lacking if not the secular taxpayers? The robbery of the public coffers will continue if Shas is allowed to get near the safe.

But the heads of One Israel and Meretz are playing innocent - why? Because Shas's Knesset members are 17 in number. (All of them men, of course.) If there were no more than the 10 Knesset members required for public prayers in the Shas faction, they would not be worthy partners for the spotless leftist camp. But as there are so many of them, they are loyal partners to those who want to establish a more just and enlightened society here.

And who makes it kosher for One Israel and Meretz to betray the trust of their voters, if not the round-spectacled publicists and the intellectual do-gooders who have decided that, for the sake of the longed-for peace, it is permissible to lie to ourselves? Shas will be a more convenient partner for negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Syrian President Hafez Assad than the Likud. Therefore, the public that elected the 17 Shas Knesset members "must not be disqualified," but it is permitted, even a good deed, to disqualify the public that elected the 19 members from the Likud.

But this is not only a matter of peace. This is also prissiness and hypocrisy, talking down to the "ignorant masses," populism of the sort that has brought any number of disasters to the world, lip service that blond, blue-eyed native-born Israelis are paying to the Jews originating in the Muslim countries as atonement for the imaginary and real sins of their fathers.

Shas is the only political party in Israel that proudly declares its ethnic nature and paradoxically accuses its opponents of "racism." It is worth remembering that two-thirds of the Jews whose origins are in the Muslim countries did not vote for Shas. They see themselves as an integral part of Israeli society and do not want to be considered in terms of their origins.

The social phenomena that brought Shas its achievements are in need of repair, but on A social basis, not an ethinic basis. The distress of the development towns and the poverty of many neighborhoods cry to the heavens, especially in light of the widening gap between the upper and lower tenths. To Shas's credit it must be noted that it located the severity of the problem. The role of the state is to devote huge resources to improving the levels of education and employment in the areas that cry out for help. Such resources should not go to the improvement of ultra-Orthodox education, a page of Gemara with nothing behind it, but toward national, Zionist and creative education. They should go not toward artificial employment, but to productive work.

There is a real danger that the interethnic wars will unravel the fabric that is binding us together as a single national entity. The deepening of the ethnic gap is an unforgivable sin and a betrayal of the Zionist idea. False enlightenment will not help here. Theodor Herzl dreamt of a new Jew, free of the residues of the ghettoes. We were on the way to creating a unified nation, by virtue of the Hebrew language, Hebrew culture, Hebrew labor, Hebrew settlement, the Israel Defense Forces and the national education system. And it was by virtue of the fact that we are all Jews - not Sephardim or Ashkenazim, but Israelis.

Instead of paying lip service to divisive and destructive ethnicity, instead of the sly attempt we are witnessing to buy Shas's votes with a honeyed tongue and bribes, we must remember (and remind Ehud Barak) that in the recent elections the secular parties won three-quarters of the Jewish vote. These voters are entitled to a government that will faithfully represent them. Being a part of the government is not an end in itself, but rather a means to achieving declared goals. If the price of a seat in the government is a partnership that perpetuates the sins of the past, there is nothing to be gained with such a government.

Yosef Lapid is a newly elected MK and the leader of Shinui

© copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

17.Mai 1999 17.Mai 1999

Die hier archivierten Artikel stammen aus den "Anfangsjahren" der breiten Nutzung des Internet. Damals waren die gestalterischen Möglichkeiten noch etwas ursprünglicher als heute. Wir haben die Artikel jedoch weiterhin archiviert, da die Informationen durchaus noch interessant sein können, u..a. auch zu Dokumentationszwecken.

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