At the conclusion of the first session of the new Knesset, the Knesset members stood and gave an impassioned rendition of the national anthem. Sixteen Jewish MKs, however, did not open their mouths. They, after all, are opposed to the Zionist anthem. The non-Zionist 11 members of Shas and five members of United Torah Judaism stood rigidly silent.
Today, after being detached from the teats of power, forced to bid farewell to the budgets, political appointments, respect, power and chauffeur-driven cars, they - and particularly the man who is unworthy of the title of rabbi - can be heard hurling invective and abuse. In his typically degraded Hebrew, he called the prime minister "the head of the garbage cans." That is how difficult it is for him to part from the state budgets.
Eli Yishai, his countenance awash with sorrow, intoned, "This is an Ashkenazi, elitist government which a priori had every intention of leaving the Sepharadim and religious people out of it." It takes one to know one. The chair of the only racist party in the Knesset, a party that cynically exploits the ethnic divide, that is open only to Sepharadim and which refuses to take in women - this party dares to talk of racism? Yishai also believes that he has the monopoly on God. As far as he is concerned, the members of the National Religious Party and some of the members of the National Union are not religious at all. After all, he is the representative of the Divine Spirit on earth. It is a form of idolatry.
It is not difficult to understand why the members of Shas and United Torah Judaism are so upset. For 25 years, they were members of the governments of Israel and became used to squeezing the taxpayer almost dry. They have educated their elites not to fulfill any Zionist duties - primarily not to serve in the Zionist army, because God will fight for them from above. After that, they taught them not to learn anything useful - mathematics, English, history, civics - so that they would remain ignorant, unskilled and dependent on their politicians. They then trained them not to work at all, but rather to live at the expense of the taxes paid by the Zionist suckers.
In the recent elections, the voters realized that Shas and UTJ are concerned only about their own elites and couldn't care less about the weak and underprivileged, and consequently reduced their power in the Knesset by 30 percent to 11 Knesset seats. But this blow was nothing compared to their shock at seeing their nemesis - Yosef (Tommy) Lapid - replace them at the cabinet table.
Shas's venom and vilification are so vociferous because it realizes that it has lost control over the money. The Ministry of the Interior, for example, was one of the greatest cash cows for Shas institutions. All the mayors knew that they would not get their budgets from the ministry if they did not allocate part of the money to religious councils, yeshivot, kollels, ritual baths, organizations and "research" institutions, all of which served the ultra-Orthodox public well. Shas knows that Avraham Poraz, the new minister of the interior, will cut this umbilical cord. The abolition of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and dispersal of religious councils will have a similar effect.
The NRP and Shinui also decided to change the Tal Law to limit the number of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students exempt from military service. This is also in the interest of the NRP, which is fighting Shas for leadership of the religious world, presenting the opposing worldview - that service in the Israel Defense Forces is not only not a religious flaw, but is instead a religious virtue.
Shas is terribly afraid of the item in the coalition agreement concerning child benefit allowances. Once again, the interests of the NRP and Shinui coincide. The intention is to make all child allowances equal (so that each child is allocated the same sum), which will improve the lot of families with four children and less.
Who would have imagined that Sharon would treat the ultra-Orthodox this way? He is now doing what Barak was afraid to do. Barak brought into his government the Trojan horse that toppled him at the moment of truth, but Sharon understands that with the ultra-Orthodox outside he will be able to carry out some important civil revolutions and necessary economic and social reforms - and for that he deserves a salute.
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