The Bottom Line / Change in the Air

Yigal Yasinov was born in Ukraine in 1966. He is the second representative of immigrants from the former Soviet Union on the Shinui list (after No. 6 Victor Brailovsky).

Yigal Yasinov was born in Ukraine in 1966. He is the second representative of immigrants from the former Soviet Union on the Shinui list (after No. 6 Victor Brailovsky). He never dreamed of making it to the Knesset, but now, at No. 15 on the list, he has a chance - if the survey results published yesterday in Ha'aretz hold true through to election day. In any case, it seems that Shinui will be the surprise of this election campaign, more than doubling its strength relative to its current Knesset contingent, while Shas is plummeting from 17 seats in the outgoing Knesset to a projected seven or eight.

The difficult socio-economic condition in which we are mired, and the ongoing discussion of these matters in the media, have led to this turnabout. The public has reached the conclusion that the parasitism of Shas cannot go on, and that it is impossible to increase the burden on the middle class. The public does not buy the sanctimonious claims that Shinui hates the ultra-Orthodox. What is there to love or hate in politics? Politics is a struggle over the division of resources and, up until now, the Haredim have simply pocketed it all.

Most of ultra-Orthodox adults (80 percent) do not work at all, but rather live at the expense of the (mainly middle-class) tax payer. They do not, of course, serve in the army and the middle class thus protects them and suffers casualties. And since they don't support themselves, the middle class must pay much higher taxes to maintain them.

And because Silvan Shalom raised taxes this year on labor to 63 percent (including social security and health taxes), and because he imposed capital gains taxes starting in 2003 (and this, too, will be mainly paid by the middle class), a rebellious, fed-up middle class is finding a mouthpiece in Shinui.

If a government is formed without Shas, as Tommy Lapid dreams, it would be possible to carry out a major socio-economic revolution. First of all, the most discriminatory law of all - the Tal Law, which legitimizes the evasion of army service by the Haredim, would go. Next would be making child allowances equal so the identical sum will be paid for each child, regardless of whether he or she is the first or fifth child in the family. Then, Ministry of Religious Affairs subsidies to yeshiva students would end; anyone wishing to go to yeshiva would have to pay full price, just like students at university. And for dessert: the study of mathematics, physics, sciences, English, history and citizenship would be made mandatory in all Haredi educational institutions.

The moment this happens, the Haredim will start to work as do their brethren in Brooklyn and Antwerp, and will even serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The burden of taxes and military service will thus be spread over the entire population, easing the load now carried by the middle class and putting an end to discrimination. The economy would grow at a faster pace from the injection of additional workers and lowering of taxes. The ultra-Orthodox, who would no longer be supported by handouts, would work and support themselves in the true spirit of Judaism and their economic situation would then improve immeasurably, empowering them to make a dignified exit from the cycle of poverty.