Anything but 'Anything but Shas'

It's impossible to march toward a diplomatic horizon with brother Naftali Bennett and sister Orit Strock of Habayit Hayehudi. It's impossible to advance toward a diplomatic horizon if we prefer hating the Haredim to stopping the settlers. The obligation of the Zionist center is not to exclude Shas, but to embrace it.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

On the day it was held, the 1999 election was perceived as the dawn of a new day. Ehud Barak's sweeping victory was seen as a win not for him personally, but for certain values. After three bad years in which Israel was ruled by Benjamin Netanyahu, Aryeh Deri and Rabbi Yitzhak Kaddouri, enlightened Israel had come back big-time. The old Israel had regained its hope.

But when Barak's rejoicing masses gathered in Rabin Square on the night of the victory, they stained the victory with a semi-racist chant: "Anything but Shas, anything but Shas." At that moment, it was clear that the 1999 victory wouldn't bring the dawn of any new day. Instead of the rising force in Israel being an elite that serves all of society, it was revealed as just another tribal power filled with ancient hatred for another tribe. On the very night of the 1999 revolution, hope was already lost for a new kind of politics and a new start and a new Israel.

Yair Lapid isn't Barak. The 544,000 votes he received at the polls bear no resemblance to the 1.7 million votes Barak received at the polls 14 years ago. But this time, too, the exciting and promising achievement by the new kid on the block was immediately stained with that same thunderous whisper: Anything but Shas, anything but Shas. This time, too, the first goal the white tribe set for itself was to remove the non-white tribe from the government. The populist pressure being applied to Lapid's bourgeois party is urging him to join hands with Naftali Bennett's party of settlers to realize the dream of north Tel Aviv: excluding the ultra-Orthodox.

It's a mistake, my friends. A doubled and redoubled mistake.

The Yesh Atid party's societal goal is that of all of us: establishing a just Israeli society in which everyone serves and everyone studies and everyone works. But we must pursue this important goal with wisdom and patience. It's impossible to ignore the fact that in recent years, a quiet and impressive revolution has been taking place in ultra-Orthodox society. It's impossible to ignore the fact that the percentage of Haredim being drafted, the percentage of Haredim attending college and the percentage of Haredim in the workforce have all been rising steadily.

Therefore, there is no practical justification for a head-on collision with the Haredim in 2013. On the contrary: We must strengthen the positive process of change they are undergoing. We must exploit their relative political weakness to reach unprecedented understandings with them. Instead of excluding Shas, we must embrace it and offer it a new covenant, one that will advance the Haredi revolution rather than turning it into a counterrevolution.

Yesh Atid's diplomatic goal is also that of all of us. If peace is possible, great. If peace is impossible, then at least divide the land. If dividing the land is impossible, then at least stop the settlements and prevent the Jewish democratic state from becoming a binational state. This diplomatic goal is both modest and essential. There will be no hope for the middle class and no well-being for the middle class if Israel doesn't have a diplomatic horizon. There will be no hope for Yesh Atid and no future for it if it doesn't fight to open up a diplomatic horizon.

But it's impossible to march toward the diplomatic horizon with brother Naftali Bennett and sister Orit Strock of Habayit Hayehudi. It's impossible to advance toward the diplomatic horizon if we prefer hating the Haredim to stopping the settlers. The obligation incumbent on the Zionist center today is not to exclude Shas, but to embrace it and make a new covenant with it, one that will advance a new and realistic diplomatic process.

The results of the election were confusing. This time, Israelis didn't issue a single unequivocal statement, but a series of disjointed, mumbled statements. Yet the political map formed by the election is one whose focal point is Shas. The key to gradually fixing society rests with Shas, and the key to diplomatic moderation rests with Shas. Lapid is the man who has the power to turn the key and use it to open the gate to a hopeful future.

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