We can continue to complain about Shas at our Friday-night gatherings with friends from now until February 10, or, we can take action to prevent the ultra-Orthodox minority from taking over the secular majority.
It was Shas that forced the superfluous elections on Israel in the midst of an economic hurricane whose end nobody can guess. Every shekel that is now lost to the election campaign and the transitional government will soon be sorely missed in the anticipated battle for the stability of the economy, the protection of pensions and the prevention of unemployment.
Now, even before the election campaign begins, Shas is demanding for itself the Education Ministry, because "the time has come to introduce Jewish values into the schools." There are no limits to its chutzpah. Party chairman Eli Yishai, who is blocking the inclusion of sciences, mathematics, English and history in the Shas El Hama'ayan educational network, in order to keep "his" children poor and dependent upon him, will be the new educator. Will he want the children of the secular majority as well to grow up ignorant and unable to earn a living? Will he demand they, too, be educated to avoid serving in the Israel Defense Forces? Will he teach them to lie and take bribes like Aryeh Deri, Yair Levi, Shlomo Benizri, Yair Peretz, Raphael Pinhasi and Ofer Hugi?
"There was anti-Sephardi racism," said Yishai, attacking Tzipi Livni after causing the coalition negotiations to fail, although Livni did not succumb to similar demands by United Torah Judaism. The attacker is accusing others of his own flaws, because Shas is the most racist party in the Knesset. On principle it rejects the possibility that an Ashkenazi or a woman could be an MK on its behalf. That is sufficient reason for the Elections Committee to outlaw it.
Shas is an anti-Zionist party, and we are not referring to the failure to stand at attention during the sounding of the siren on Memorial Day, but rather to something more profound - educating its elite to betray the two central tenets of Zionism: work and the army. Let the Zionist donkey work and pay taxes, and also sacrifice his life in war for them.
Shas has been in every government since 1984, with the exception of the one formed by Ariel Sharon in 2003. Shinui vetoed its entry into the government. Since Shinui had 15 seats and Shas only 11, Shas remained outside.
During those three years important reforms were implemented that would not have been possible had Shas joined the government. Child allowances were cut, which forced the ultra-Orthodox and Arab poor to have fewer children and to begin to go out to work. The Religious Affairs Ministry was closed, and the budgets for yeshivas and yeshiva students were sharply curtailed (meanwhile the ministry has been reinstated).
When Avraham Poraz (Shinui) was appointed interior minister, the abuse by successive Shas ministers of local government heads stopped. Local authorities were no longer forced to build mikvehs and synagogues as a condition for receiving money from the ministry. The custom of persecuting those who eat chametz on Pessah came to an end, as did the tradition of persecuting those who opened businesses on Shabbat outside the cities. Even daylight savings time was extended. Poraz also granted permanent residency to members of the Hebrew Israelite (Black Hebrews) community in Dimona and citizenship to several hundred non-Jewish soldiers serving in the IDF. The country became more normal, more tolerant, more humane.
There was a substantial change in the economic sphere as well. Finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with support from Shinui, cut the budget, lowered taxes, privatized companies and implemented important reforms, which placed the economy on the track of growth and a decline in unemployment. All these things would have been impossible had Shas been in the government.
Therefore, what is missing now in the Knesset is a successor to Shinui: a taxpayers party that would raise the twin banners of economic freedom and freedom from religious coercion. A party that would be a counterweight to Shas and would represent the humanist values of the secular majority. A party that would also work to pass a civil marriage law, so nobody will have to fly to Cyprus in order to marry, as well as abolishing the local religious councils, which cost a fortune. They can be ordinary departments in the municipalities. In the economic sphere, the taxpayers party would be a counterweight to all the populists on the right (such as Gideon Saar and Gilad Erdan) and the left (such as Shelly Yachimovich and Ofer Eini), who every day find new ways to increase government expenditure. The taxpayers party would stop the spending spree. It would represent the middle class, which works hard for a living, is burdened by a mortgage, does reserve duty and is not willing to allow these populists to put their hands deep into its pockets.
The taxpayers party would believe in the market economy, in privatization, in war against the monopolies, in abolishing bureaucracy and in reducing the role of the government in the economy - because the private citizen knows better what to do with his money.
So, instead of letting off steam on Friday nights, the middle class can take action: It can organize and establish the Taxpayers Party. The middle class, too, and not only Shas yeshiva students, deserves representation.
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