Tag: Haredim


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Lapid and the Haredim: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013—On Monday, April 22, Finance Minister Yair Lapid delivered his maiden speech in the Knesset plenum, answering three of the six motions of no-confidence in the government presented by the Opposition. The speech turned into a direct confrontation between himself and the Ashkenazi haredi MKs – in particular MKs Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni and Yisrael Eichler.


Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Wants to Accelerate Settlements: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 28, 2013—Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is busy these days dealing with the problem of the cemetery in Ariel settlement in Judea and Samaria. There are only four remaining burial plots and he is trying to expand the cemetery.


Palestinian Journalists Declare War on Israeli Colleagues: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2013—How can anyone talk about resuming the peace process when Palestinians are being told by their leaders, on a daily basis, how bad and evil Israel is? If Israel is so bad and evil, then how can any leader go to his people and say that he is negotiating with them?


On Topic Links



Haredim See Lapid as a Force Majeur: Avishai Ben Haim, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013

Netanyahu, Liberman Spar Over Peace-Deal Referendum: Aaron Kalman, Times of Israel, Apr. 29, 2013

Israel: The Olmert-Lapid Reckoning: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, Apr. 26, 2013

For Israel, Tranquil Days: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, April 28, 2013

Jew Hatred at UN Schools: Dan Calic, Ynet News, Apr. 26, 2013





Susan Hattis Rolef

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013


On Monday, April 22, Finance Minister Yair Lapid delivered his maiden speech in the Knesset plenum, answering three of the six motions of no-confidence in the government presented by the Opposition. The speech turned into a direct confrontation between himself and the Ashkenazi haredi MKs – in particular MKs Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni and Yisrael Eichler.


I must admit that I was impressed by Lapid’s speech. First, there was the fact that Lapid, who is used to speaking with a teleprompter, had to do without this technological gadget, and did very well, speaking clearly and coherently, without letting the haredi MKs, who were constantly heckling him, budge him from his narrative. Furthermore, even though what he said was extremely provocative (from a haredi point of view), his language remained polite, and his tone calm and non-tempestuous, though every once in a while his intonation was surprisingly similar to that of his father, Tommy Lapid, who as we may recall was frequently impolite and tempestuous.


Secondly, Lapid expressed in the clearest and most direct form several basic principles most secular Israelis firmly believe in but only rarely express for fear of upsetting the haredim. The first is the principle that every person is responsible for providing for the children he brings to the world – or at least should do his best to provide for them, and not expect the state to do so. The issue came up when MK Meir Porush accused Lapid of “starving children” due to his proposal to drastically cut social security child support.


I was raised on the principle that it is the duty of parents to provide for their children. Where I came from, turning into a financial burden on the state was considered something to be ashamed of, and to be avoided at any cost. Inter alia, this means one should do one’s utmost not to bring more children into the world than one can provide for both in material and educational terms.


In the haredi world (at least in Israel) this principle is scorned. The number of children is a function of the fertility of their parents, and avoiding gainful employment for the purpose of religious studies (with or without a wink), is the bon ton. I remember feeling truly sorry for a haredi colleague in the Knesset Research and Information Center, who told me that none of his neighbors knew what he was doing for a living, because if they found out he would have difficulties finding decent matches for his children.


Another principle that Lapid reiterated (in response to an interruption by MK Gafni) was that it was none of the haredi MKs’ business to tell him whether it is OK to write Facebook posts on Saturday. There is no earthly reason why a secular Jew in Israel, including a finance minister, should have to apologize for not preserving the Sabbath, any more than a religious Jew should have to apologize for preserving the Sabbath.


Israel is not a state governed by halacha, Jewish law, it is a Jewish state in that it is the state of all the Jews who wish to live in it, and the only restriction on how they live is the law of the land, as legislated by the Knesset – not halacha. Nevertheless, no one stops people from living according to halacha, as long as this is not in breach of the law of the land – something that unfortunately many haredim in Israel have difficulty accepting.


Most observers agreed that in the Knesset debate on April 22 Lapid won a knockout victory over the Ashkenazi haredim, who should have known better than to get involved in this superfluous verbal battle (which also caused Lapid to decide henceforth to deliver important economic speeches outside the Knesset, without constant interruptions by the haredi MKs).


However, the main problem was the haredi reaction. During the debate MK Meir Porush accused Lapid of hating the haredim, while part of the haredi media accused him of anti-Semitism. MK Eli Yishai went so far as to say that if a politician in Europe dared to say about the Jews what the leaders of Yesh Atid say about the haredim, Israel would be up in arms to protest against the abominable manifestation of anti-Semitism.


This is pure demagoguery. If the Jewish citizens in any European country dared act the way the haredim act in Israel – i.e. refuse on principle, and en masse, to uphold obligations shared by every citizen or to go out and work, and at the same time demand full social security benefits – the politicians in that country would be perfectly justified to use harsh language to describe the phenomenon. But the Jewish citizens of other states do not act in this manner – not even the haredim.


The problem really is that even though most of the haredim participate in Israel’s democracy, they do not really accept the basic principles on which it is based. Back in the mid 1980s, MK Menachem Porush – father of Meir Porush – fought against the introduction of provisions into Israeli law that prevent lists that reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state running in the elections, because he feared that the fact that the haredi parties openly advocate Israel turning into a halachic state would be interpreted to mean that they reject Israel as a democratic state.


The provision nevertheless became law, and the lenient approach of the High Court of Justice on the issue has enabled the haredi parties (and the Arab parties, for that matter) to get away with some of their ideological positions, as long as they do not take concrete action to realize them.


Nevertheless, the situation we confront today is a direct consequence of this anomaly, which for too many years has been swept under the carpet. The problem is not hatred of the haredim, but the unwillingness of the public Yair Lapid represents to continue to let them make a mockery of some of the basic obligations of citizens toward the state of which they are citizens. Put in other words, the social contract between the democratic state and its citizens is not something that any major population group can pooh-pooh.


The writer is a retired Knesset employee..


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Mazal Mualem

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 28, 2013


Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon in an interview with Mazal Mualem.


Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is busy these days dealing with the problem of the cemetery in Ariel settlement in Judea and Samaria. There are only four remaining burial plots and he is trying to expand the cemetery.


At his office at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Danon is still getting used to his new job. Nonetheless, one thing has been clear to him since his first day in office: he intends to help the settlements in Judea and Samaria, those he feels were harassed by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Defense ministers are in charge of approving construction in the settlements and Danon hopes the Ariel cemetery problem will soon be solved given that unlike Barak, his successor Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon is committed to the settlement enterprise. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Danon promises to advance the approval of all the building plans which he claims were held up by Barak.


Danon, 42, came in fifth in the Likud primaries held last year (Nov. 26, 2012), ahead of senior government ministers, among them Ya’alon himself, his boss at the defense ministry who came in 7th. This achievement is the result of his activism in the political and media arenas and his support for the far right-wing Likud membership in Judea and Samaria. This is what landed him is current job. But anyone who knows Danon knows, too, that he is not there simply to warm his chair at the defense ministry.


Danon belongs to the group of young Likud Knesset members, along with others like Deputy Minister of Transportation Tzipi Hotovely and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who form the hard core of the right wing. Like him, they, too, were elected to top slots in the Likud primaries and were upgraded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to positions of deputy ministers. As previously mentioned here, Netanyahu gave them cushy jobs to buy himself peace and quiet on the diplomatic front from this strong group that during his previous term caused him many headaches from within the Likud.


For now, Netanyahu’s political conduct appears to be sound. President Barack Obama's visit came and went quietly, as did the visits of Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.


As a Knesset member for the Likud you fought against previous Defense Minister Ehud Barak throughout his term. You claimed he was harming the settlement enterprise for ideological reasons. Now that you’re at the defense ministry, have you found proof of this?


“Certainly. Barak delayed construction. The main problem is that all those involved in the settlement enterprise have gotten used to operating according to the winds blowing from the top. The new challenge is to convey the message that there are new winds blowing at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, both from the direction of Defense Minister Ya’alon and from mine. I regard the settlers as a boon, not a burden. We need to do as much as possible to strengthen the settlements — all by the book, of course.”

What exactly did he delay?


“At every settlement I visit people come up to me and tell of plans that were approved but were held up by Barak. This was the case with the Ariel College, as it was called at the time. Barak was forced to give his approval to the college becoming a university only under heavy pressure. And there are other such cases. I was amazed to discover that, as of the end of the week, there are only four remaining burial plots at the cemetery in Ariel. It’s a big place and some of the population is not young, and it’s really a distressing problem. Expansion of the cemetery was approved a long time ago, but Barak refused to sign the building plans. You have to understand — we’re not talking about illegal construction, but about providing basic civic services in the main settlement blocs. There’s also a neighborhood in the settlement of Elkana that has been approved but delayed by Barak, and many additional plans.


Construction in the West Bank could create tensions with the US just as the relationship has started to improve.


“I don’t think so. We’re talking about places that are not considered diplomatically sensitive. We respect the democracy in the United States and they have to respect our democracy and our commitment to our citizens. The Likud, as well as the HaBayit HaYehudi party, and even Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who launched his election campaign in Ariel, support the continued existence of the settlement blocks. The new government is a more national one, and the reason is that Barak is not a member of it.”


How will you react if it turns out that Netanyahu is leading a diplomatic move?


“I don’t see it happening right now. If it’s going on, it’s probably happening underground. Right now everyone is busy with Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. My assessment is that as far as the ruling coalition is concerned, there will be differences between words and deeds vis-à-vis a diplomatic move. In other words, as long as Netanyahu conducts negotiations, he won’t have a domestic problem, but if he decides on another settlement freeze, that’s already a different story. That will be a problem for HaBayit HaYehudi, as well. But for now we haven’t seen additional American pressure or any activity on the part of the prime minister.”


On another front, in recent days Danon has been leading a move within the Likud-Beiteinu Knesset faction to legislate compulsory national service for the Israeli-Arab citizens. The law would complement a proposed bill to draft the country’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, scheduled to come up for Knesset approval at the beginning of May. Danon, who will present his demand at the weekly Likud-Beiteinu meeting on Monday (April 29), is trying to enlist the support of additional Knesset members for the move, which is likely to stir a heated political and public debate. This is a loaded, explosive issue. Danon claims that the Likud, as a national democratic movement, cannot condone such an asymmetrical situation.


The demand to draft Israeli-Arabs into the army, along with drafting the ultra-Orthodox, was raised in the past by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. That’s the reason his representatives torpedoed the deliberations of the Plesner Committee, established in May 2012 to formulate recommendations on the draft issue.


The Plesner Committee determined that one could not deal with the draft of the ultra-Orthodox with the same level of seriousness as that of the Arabs, that each requires totally different preparations.


“It’s possible, and how. I think it’s wrong to focus only on the ultra-Orthodox. We have a government that is changing the order of things, heading for big moves. It is not earth-shattering if we deal with this issue, too.” And Danon adds: “I don’t like the language and the style being used toward the ultra-Orthodox, while ignoring the fact that some 20% of Israel’s population, that do not contribute, are Arabs. This serves an agenda. I’m not saying the Arabs should be forced to join the Golani Brigade or the border police, but they should definitely do national service in hospitals, senior homes and public institutions.”


Whose agenda does this serve?


“Certainly not the Likud’s. We’re coming at this issue with an approach of real equality and not hatred of the religious. The minute you sever the link between the two things and threaten the ultra-Orthodox with imprisonment if they don’t enlist, and at the same time ‘display sensitivity’ toward the Arabs – that’s a problem. I’d like for the left-wingers who have become active in Yesh Atid party to display the same kind of ambition they display toward drafting the ultra-Orthodox also toward drafting the Arabs.”


Mazal Mualem started her journalistic career during her military service, where she was assigned to the Bamachane army weekly newspaper.


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Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2013


Palestinian journalists have declared an intifada against their Israeli colleagues. In recent weeks, Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs have been facing increased threats from Palestinian reporters. On a number of occasions, the threats included acts of violence against the Israeli journalists, particularly in Ramallah.


Human rights organizations and groups claiming to defend freedom of media have failed to condemn the campaign of intimidation waged by Palestinian journalists against their Israeli fellow-journaists. It is one thing when governments and dictators go after journalists, but a completely different thing when journalists start targeting their counterparts.


An Israeli journalist had his microphone damaged during an assault, while another was thrown out of a press conference. Behind the two incidents were Palestinian journalists, angered by the presence of Israelis in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. The threats and harassment came as more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition, for the first time ever, calling on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli correspondents from operating in its territories "without permission."


The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has complied, issuing instructions requiring Israeli journalists to obtain permission from its Ministry of Information before entering Palestinian cities. Palestinian Authority officials and journalists later explained that the ban does not apply to some journalists working for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz and who report on "Palestinian suffering."


The Palestinian journalists campaigning against their Israeli colleagues have justified their action by saying that Israeli authorities do not allow them to work freely inside Israel. They also accuse the Israeli authorities of refusing to issue them with [Israeli] government press cards.


If anything, these claims represent a hypocritical approach. In recent years, Palestinian journalists have strongly opposed to "normalization" with Israelis, including meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who violated the ban and met with Israeli counterparts were denounced as traitors and expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.


So while Palestinian journalists are opposed to "normalization" with Israel, they are at the same time demanding that Israeli authorities grant them permission to work inside Israel. Even more, the Palestinian journalists are demanding that Israel provide them with press cards issued by none other than the Israeli government.


Won't the Palestinian journalists be violating their own rules and ideology once they accept press cards issued by the Israeli government? And if they enter Israel and meet with Israelis, won't they also be acting against their own boycott campaign? What is disturbing is that foreign journalists based in Israel have not come out against the campaign of intimidation against their Israeli colleagues. Could it be because these foreign journalists have also been facing threats and want to stay on good terms with Palestinian reporters, and will also agree to report only on "Palestinian suffering"?


Gone are the days when Israeli and Palestinian journalists used to work together and exchange information on a daily basis, in the days before the peace process started. Today, there is a new generation of Palestinian journalists who have evidently been radicalized to a point where any meeting with an Israeli is being viewed as a "crime." This is the result of anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, especially over the past two decades.


Aware of the growing radicalism of Palestinian journalists, the Palestinian Authority, together with the American security detail, banned a large number of Palestinian journalists from covering the visit of US President Barack Obama to Ramallah last month. The biggest fear was that a Palestinian journalist would either throw a shoe at Obama or engage in a rhetorical attack against him and US policies.


If Palestinian journalists have been so radicalized that some are even willing to resort to threats and violence against colleagues, what must one say about the rest of the Palestinians who, for the past two decades, have also been exposed to messages of hate by their leaders? How can anyone talk about resuming the peace process when Palestinians are being told by their leaders, on a daily basis, how bad and evil Israel is? If Israel is so bad and evil, then how can any leader go to his people and say that he is negotiating with them?


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Paula R. Stern

A Soldier’s Mother Blog, April 23, 2013

Well, not Israel, exactly – but to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where an Israeli doctor and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ilan Tabb and his staff are responsible for doing all they can to save the life of a man accused of murdering four and injuring close to 200.

Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience with these types of injuries after years of treating people injured in terror attacks in Israel. We have a few Israeli doctors in the emergency room, and the director of the ER is also Israeli. But most of the physicians at the hospital are not Israeli, and they functioned exceptionally well. It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time," Professor Tabb said. "The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured soldier and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions.

 Having met many Israeli doctors, I can tell you that I understand their training. I know that they are asked and expected to treat everyone evenly. I know that many doctors have been challenged with saving the life of someone who has maliciously taken the lives of others. More times than you can imagine, the terrorist is evacuated with the wounded – and in some cases, given priority in treatment because the doctors treat based on severity of wounds, not on nationality. All efforts will be made to disarm the terrorist – any and all force is acceptable…until the terrorist is disarmed, and then, in the eyes of the doctor, even the most horrible of human beings becomes a responsibility, an obligation.

There have been several really dumb comparisons made – especially one by John Kerry related to the Boston bombers. When I was reading about the Israeli doctors treating the terrorist, I remembered a passage I had once read about the Eichmann trial.  I wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would say about his doctors being Israelis. I doubt he could possibly understand the humanity behind the actions of the Israeli doctors. Tsarnaev won't understand – as Eichmann did not. I found the passage I remembered…it was spoken during a discussion between then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the Director of the Mossad Isser Harel. The conversation was recorded and classified, and only recently released.

In the discussion, people are asking Harel about the time right after Eichmann was captured. Eichmann came from a culture that believed in death, as apparently Tsarnaev did. Neither would expect decency from their enemies, from those they had perceived as weak. I find it fitting that Eichmann was fairly tried in Israel, convicted, and punished according to the law. If ind it fitting and just that Tsarnaev will live his life, knowing that it was Jews that saved his life.

Harel told Ben Gurion and others…


He doesn’t understand our behavior, he thought that we would beat him and treat him cruelly. We are treating him in keeping with the laws of the State of Israel, from the day the arrest order for him was issued and given to the Justice Ministry he is being treated according to the law.


When the anger burns within you, it is easier to lose sight of the law, of what is just and what is right. There is justice in Eichmann not being executed in Argentina; of his being brought back to Israel to see what we have built here and to know that it is by our law, by our justice that he was sentenced to death. For the record, Israel has only executed one person in all of its 65 years of independence. One man.

There will be justice for  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because, like Israel, America will rise above the anger to do what is right, what is just. It is in the anger we overcome that we prove our humanity. There are those who will wish Tsarnaev had died rather than been captured but death is glory to the Islam that Tsarnaev says he and his brother were defending. The glory comes from becoming a martyr and as he survived, that martyrdom will be denied to this brother at least.  He will rot in jail – no glory, no honor. That is justice, the ultimate and true punishment. 

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Haredim See Lapid as a Force Majeur: Avishai Ben Haim, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013—Finance Minister Yair Lapid's "we've finished taking orders from the haredim" speech in the Knesset will go down in the annals of Israel's relationship with its haredi population. Something like this had never happened before, and it is simply impossible to downplay its importance.


Netanyahu, Liberman Spar Over Peace-Deal Referendum: Aaron Kalman, Times of Israel, Apr. 29, 2013—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended the idea of a national referendum on any peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, fending off challenges from within his faction.


Israel: The Olmert-Lapid Reckoning: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, Apr. 26, 2013—The announcement by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he plans to run for office in the next elections should be taken seriously. This is an opening strategic move designed to position himself, as early as the next few months, as an alternative leadership candidate before the Israeli public and the world.


For Israel, Tranquil Days: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, April 28, 2013—It's a measure of the relatively quiet time for Israel these days that the sharpest argument at a big national security conference here was between an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who wanted "autonomy" for his fellow believers and secular Israelis in the audience who shouted out denunciations of what one called his "apartheid" plan.


Jew Hatred at UN Schools: Dan Calic, Ynet News, Apr. 26, 2013—Created in 1949 specifically to deal with the "Palestinian refugees," UNRWA spends roughly $500 million each year on schools. It utilizes text books produced by the Palestinian Authority. The UN itself does not finance UNRWA. Primary financial support comes from US and European taxpayers. 


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Livni’s Haredi Chutzpa

The chutzpa of former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni knows no bounds. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week, she slammed the Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “selling the state to the ultra-Orthodox.”

Haredi draft bill: A historic missed opportunity

The breakdown between Likud and Kadima over drafting Haredi ultra-Orthodox represented the loss of a historic opportunity for Israel to unite the nation and rescue a significant and growing sector of Israeli society from a life of poverty and ignorance.


The Quiet Haredi revolution

With the public storm over the Plesner Committee’s recommendations, it seems that, under the surface, the Haredi street is starting to wage an internal battle over its image.


On Topic Links



Livni’s Haredi Chutzpa

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Aug 10, 2012


The chutzpa of former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni knows no bounds. In an interview to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week, she slammed the Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “selling the state to the ultra-Orthodox.” Likud has “granted the Haredim a monopoly on the Jewishness of the State of Israel,” she accused.


What a grand historical lie! What an inversion of the truth! Just the opposite is true. It was the political Left in Israel that in the 1990s handed the keys to Israel’s Jewish character over to the Ultra-Orthodox, in order to purchase Haredi support for Oslo I and II. It was the Left’s sellout to the Haredim, for the sake of “peace with the Palestinians,” that brought us Haredi control over the official State Rabbinate, Rabbinical Courts, Municipal Religious Councils, Kashrut agencies, and more. It was Labor and Kadima, not Likud, which “granted the Haredim a monopoly on the Jewishness of the State of Israel.”


Let’s go back a bit in history. For more than 40 years, the Religious Zionist (or Mizrachi, or Modern Orthodox) community in Israel sought to serve as a bridge between the religious and secular communities in Israel, and acted with the benefit of all Israelis in mind. Its political party, the National Religious Party (NRP), was the “natural partner” in every Labor-led government from Ben-Gurion to Rabin and Peres.


Religious Zionism served as the patron of Israel’s state religious character, negotiating the preservation of basic Shabbat and kashrut observation in the public sphere, and establishing the chief rabbinate, the army rabbinate, the religious councils and courts and other cultural and statutory institutions.


In general, this community’s rabbis and religious court judges were loving, moderate and accommodating in their approach and demeanor. They invested modern Zionism and Israeli patriotism with religious, spiritual and even messianic meaning. They served in the Israeli army, celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, and believed that they were the servants of all Israelis – secular and religious.


With the establishment of Gush Emunim after the Yom Kippur War, this community also became politically right wing and the spearhead of the settlement enterprise. With the rise of Likud, it became a regular coalition partner for the Begin and Shamir governments.


Haredi “stinking maneuvers” around Religious Zionism and in support of the political Left began in 1990 with then-Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who attempted to bring down the unity government led by Prime Minister Shamir and install a Peres government instead. The move failed, but the die was cast for a grand deal between the Left and the Haredim.


When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party brought the Oslo I accords to the Knesset for approval in September 1993, he relied on Haredi votes, among others, to push the accord through over NRP objections. This was even more apparent in September 1995, when Labor managed to eke the Oslo II accord through Knesset by a hairbreadth, literally buying votes with Mitsubishi sedans and purchasing outright the backing of the Ultra Orthodox by promising them dominion over the NRP’s state religious empires.


Similarly, the disastrous disengagement from Gaza – which expelled 9,000 mostly Religious Zionist men, women and children from their homes and destroyed their synagogues, yeshivot and communities – was rammed through the Knesset by Kadima, with the support of the three Ultra Orthodox factions.…


In the following years, Ultra Orthodox parties and their rabbis conducted a slow but inexorable conquest of the rabbinate and religious courts. Ultra Orthodox candidates defeated Religious Zionist candidates for the post of Chief Rabbi, with the backing of Labor and Kadima. Livni’s closest ally, Haim Ramon, personally presided over the election of two Haredi Chief Rabbis. The religious court bench too was populated almost exclusively with Haredi judges, again with the backing of secular politicians from the Left. As Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert marched in lock-step with the Haredim of that city, paving the way for the election of a Haredi mayor as his successor.


The NRP and its offshoots screamed bloody murder, but no-one was listening. The deal was clear to all: Haredi support (or abstention) for the Left’s Palestinian diplomatic escapades in exchange for Haredi predominance in state religious institutions. Thousands of state jobs – kashrut inspectors, municipal rabbis, judges and more – went to the Haredim.


In less than a decade, the deleterious results began to show: City rabbis who began demanding extreme gender separation requirements in municipal public events and public spaces, burial societies instituting strictures in funeral proceedings (especially regarding the role of women), courts applying stringencies in matters of marriage and divorce and especially conversion…


Indeed, someone did “sell the state to the ultra-Orthodox” and “grant Haredim a monopoly on the Jewishness of the State of Israel.” But it wasn’t the Likud and it wasn’t Netanyahu. It was Livni and her colleagues. They created the out-of-control Haredi cartel which today has a stranglehold on our national religious bureaucracy and our discourse on religion and state. Now they are, perhaps, sorry.


Despite the fact the Haredi parties are part of his governing coalition, Netanyahu has supported the Tzohar Law (which would decrease the influence in marriage issues of extremist Haredi municipal rabbis and religious councils), boosted hesder yeshivot and Religious Zionist mechinot, and advanced some young and more modern Religious Zionist rabbinical candidates into public posts.


However, there is a long way to go. Rolling back the Haredi juggernaut so callously and carelessly created by Livni and her Labor-Kadima predecessors in their blind zeal to advance Oslo-era peace politics – will take a generation or more. (Top)


Haredi Draft Bill: A historic Missed Opportunity

Isi Liebler

Word from Jerusalem, July 20, 2012


The breakdown between Likud and Kadima over the haredi draft represented the loss of a historic opportunity for Israel to unite the nation and rescue a significant and growing sector of Israeli society from a life of poverty and ignorance.


Alas, my optimism was sadly misplaced that on this issue our politicians would rise to the occasion and find a reasonable compromise. That a coalition of Zionist parties failed to reach an accommodation is a reflection of the appalling lack of responsibility and ongoing inclination by our politicians to promote their short-term political ambitions above the national interest.


Whereas the initial blunder was due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s impulsive dissolution of the Plesner committee, the failure for the ultimate breakdown rests entirely on Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz who, it would appear, only entered the government to stave off immediate elections but had no intention of agreeing to the compromise proposed by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon.


Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, is deeply concerned and committed to reforming the haredi enlistment situation.


What makes the political shenanigans by Yohanan Plesner, the Kadima-appointed head of the committee, particularly outrageous, was that only two months ago, he had endorsed the very same formulation proposed by Ya’alon. Plesner had then displayed awareness of the need to introduce the reforms gradually, avoid draconian penalties and act with compassion to avoid societal disruptions and deny haredi extremists the opportunity to portray themselves as martyrs. The proposals included both financial incentives and penalties.


Plesner was also aware that the IDF could not possibly absorb huge numbers of haredi recruits overnight, and special arrangements would be required to accommodate their lifestyle. Time was also required to ensure that haredim opting for national service would be engaged in constructive work, or chaos would prevail.


Alas, Ya’alon soon recognized that the talks were heading for a breakdown and that he was confronting populist demagoguery based on haredi bashing rather than genuine interlocutors seeking a solution.


“I went into the issue at the beginning of last week thinking it would be historic process, but realized by the middle of the week that it was a political process,” he said. “We cannot declare war on a whole section of the population … When I realized I was facing political calculations rather than ethical values, I realized this would not end well.” Ya’alon also accused Plesner of seeking to put haredi draft dodgers in jail, saying this would be utterly counterproductive.


While Ya’alon’s recommendations were not revolutionary, they reflected the need to alter the status quo and increasingly bring haredim not only into the IDF but also into the workforce. They were also geared towards minimizing societal upheavals and civil strife — which is vital with Israel facing so many external and other domestic challenges.


The Kadima refusal to proceed was unconscionable. It fully realizes that the consequence of its actions is to reinstate the haredi political parties with excessive leverage and an ability to veto reforms.

Ironically, Kadima will be the biggest loser from its own irresponsible behavior. Mofaz’s brief moment of leadership has passed and his party will in all likelihood be decimated at the polls.


Netanyahu, who was at the peak of his career prior to Kadima joining the government, is now likely to face populist attacks accusing him of caving in to haredi pressure, which could cost him votes. Much will depend on whether he can convince Israelis that he has not capitulated and still intends to genuinely pursue legislation which ensures that haredim will both be drafted and incorporated into the work force.


This will be difficult with Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Lieberman exploiting populist sentiment by demanding a draft of all 18-year-olds, despite being fully aware this is totally unfeasible. And the short-sighted haredi politicians are unlikely to take advantage of the fact that this is the best deal they could ever get and will probably continue demanding that the status quo be maintained.


The main winners will be Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapid’s new party, Yesh Atid, both of which will be able to exploit the situation and undermine confidence in the larger parties.


On the other hand, Netanyahu is fortunate that even at this low moment in his political standing, Israelis have no one else to whom to turn and all polls indicate that he is still preferred as prime minister above any other candidate. Even Ha’aretz editor Aluf Benn, no friend of the prime minister, wrote, “There is still no distinct rival who can compete with Netanyahu for leadership of the country.”


In the meantime, the clock is ticking. Arab and haredi children now comprise 50 percent of registrants at Israeli elementary schools. Haredi children are denied the rudimentary skills required to earn a livelihood, causing many of them to rely on state welfare to sustain them throughout their lives. This is a social and economic burden which Israel cannot maintain without facing an economic meltdown and a major deterioration in its global status.…


This is the challenge Netanyahu faces. If he supports the Ya’alon proposals, legislation will provide haredim with the option to enroll in either the IDF or national service between the ages of 18 and 22 and receive financial incentives. If by the age of 26, they are not enrolled, they will face financial penalties. The proposal allows for a limited number of genuine full-time Torah scholars to remain engaged in yeshiva learning. National service would also be introduced for Israeli Arabs.


In light of the current alignments in the Knesset, this may prove to be impossible. But Netanyahu must convince the electorate that he is determined to move in this direction. Failure would mean that despite the absence of an alternative political leader, voters could severely punish him at the forthcoming elections and even bring about a dramatic change in the entire political constellation. (Top)


The Quiet Haredi Revolution

David Zoldan

Ha’aretz, Aug. 8, 2012


With the public storm over the Plesner Committee’s recommendations, it seems that under the surface, the Haredi street is starting to wage an internal battle over its image. On one side is the traditional conservative faction, which wants to keep things as they are and opposes modernization even within permitted boundaries.


On the other side is an increasing number of those who advocate involvement in all aspects of life in Israel. The accomplishments of this group, such as the Haredi Nahal battalion, the Haredi Campus at Ono Academic College and the establishment of six yeshiva high schools, are indications of the changing tides.


Now, the young rebels seek to translate their hitherto suppressed aspirations into political power. The Haredi Tov movement, which advocates the integration of Torah study with work, education and military service, and whose members are described mockingly as “the blue-shirts,” is gathering strength.


For major Haredi elected officials such as Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman, who represent the conservative Haredi establishment, this struggle is much more significant than the silly argument over the Haredi draft. For them, the real danger is the rise of an alternative to the United Torah Judaism faction, which could pull the rug out from under their feet and prove that there is legitimate leadership in the Haredi community besides their own.…


In a certain sense, the popularity of this movement of young Haredim draws its strength from simple human motives. In Haredi society of the 21st century, more and more calls are being made for change and for a deep examination of the community’s priorities vis-à-vis the outside world, which is changing at an extremely rapid pace.…


Today, almost no alternative exists for young Haredim who choose anything other than the conventional yeshiva track. In order to create such alternatives, the demand is growing to include secular studies (those subjects that are called “core subjects,” censored to a certain extent in order to prevent conflict with Haredi values) in the curriculum.


Young members of the Haredi sector believe that the horizons of their education can be broadened and a variety of professional options opened to them that will save them and their families from poverty and its accompanying pressures. They also agree that anyone who does not see Torah study as their main purpose in life, or is not capable of staying in yeshiva indefinitely, should be drafted. They know that military service not only gives them opportunities in schooling, higher education and jobs, it also helps them build bridges between the Haredi world and the secular world – bridges that many young Haredi people are interested in building.…


….For the first time, a group of young people is getting up and saying for all to hear: “We will keep studying Torah and observing religious precepts, but at the same time we will make personal decisions that are appropriate for our lifestyle, ourselves and our families. Being drafted into the IDF is not a default choice but instead a worthy act in and of itself. Just give us the right to choose.”(Top)


[David Zoldan, a Haredi journalist and the author of the book The Yarmulke and the Helmet: The Story of the First Ultra-Orthodox Army Unit, was a member of the first group to serve in the Nahal Haredi battalion.]