The Law of Inverse Success

There's a naive faith among us that if a certain political party succeeds at what it does and keeps its promises, the voter will be grateful and vote for it again.

There's a naive faith among us that if a certain political party succeeds at what it does and keeps its promises, the voter will be grateful and vote for it again. There's no greater mistake than this. In a country where "my compliments" is condemnable, reality is very different.

Around here, the more successful a political party and the more it sticks to its promises to the voter, the quicker voters abandon it and move to another party. It is the law of inverse success.

Shinui's fate is a faithful reflection of this principle. Shinui swept up 15 Knesset seats in the last elections, promising all-out war on the ultra-Orthodox. The problem is that it succeeded. For the first time in years there was a government without Shas, the Religious Affairs Ministry was shut down, hundreds of jobs for ultra-Orthodox apparachiks were canceled, and the budget for the yeshivas and kollels was cut by half a billion shekels a year.

Later on, child allowances were cut and discrimination in the allowances was canceled. Until the change wrought by Shinui, the allowances for the first and second child were NIS 170 a month, while for the fifth and up the allowances were NIS 850 a child. Thanks to Shinui, allowances changed so that all children get an equal allowance from the government. And that clearly means that less goes to the ultra-Orthodox.

Shinui supported cutbacks in the guaranteed income allowances and cuts in income tax - as a way to encourage the move from allowances to work. It supported the privatizations and the important reforms that moved the economy forward. The local authorities that were forced during Shas' years to support religious institutions were freed from that corrupt burden. The impact of religious coercion was greatly weakened. Suddenly, there were no inspectors during Pesach chasing after anyone who dared buy leavened goods. Suddenly, merchants who opened their shops on Saturday weren't chased down.

The option of secular burial was created. Israel Defense Forces veterans who were not recognized as Jews finally received citizenship, making it possible to bring their parents here. Even the Black Hebrews in Dimona received permanent residence status, after decades of being ignored.

Shas has simply disappeared from the media. Its media star, Shlomo Benizri, who used to appear in the press daily, is now only mentioned in the context of an indictment that will soon be delivered against him for bribery. The same is true for Shas' Yair Peretz, who has admitted to forging academic work, and the police have recommended indicting him for bribery as well.

The ultra-Orthodox, their hair shorn, have stopped being so intimidating. On Friday evenings, seculars no longer get steamed up about the robbery of the coffers, the religious coercion and the lack of respect for human rights.

But what interests the potential Shinui voter now is the fate of the negotiations with the Palestinians. In this new situation, the voters are telling Tommy Lapid and Avraham Poraz: We really thank you for keeping your promises. We are grateful for your success at removing the issue of the ultra-Orthodox from the agenda. But that's exactly why we decided to move to another party that represents the new agenda - Kadima. Shinui is lucky it didn't deliver all the goods. It failed on the matter of the draft for the yeshiva students, and at legislating secular marriage. If it had succeeded at those two issues, the polls wouldn't be predicting four seats for Shinui, but zero seats.

If the "law of inverse success" means Shinui won't be in the next Knesset and Shas goes back into the government, then the agenda will change once again. The minute the ultra-Orthodox extortion returns along with religious coercion and the abuse of minorities, the Shinui voters will be back muttering on Friday nights about who will stop the extortion; who will protect the public's coffers; who will defend the 300,000 Israelis who cannot get married in Israel; who will take care of civil rights when the interior minister is from Shas; who will promote a liberal-humanist ethos, with human beings, their dignity and freedom is at the center; and where have Lapid and Poraz disappeared to?