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October 01, 1993 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-10-01

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hat really took place
majority came from non-Jew-
during the Knesset's
ish parties.
occasionally stormy
He also took an unorthodox
three-day session last
tack in another area. Rather
week — culminating in the rat-
than pour energy into culling
ification of the Declaration of
more support the agreement,
Principles signed with the PLO
he decided to concentrate on re-
— was a fascinating power
ducing the number of votes that
game in which old players sud-
would be registered against it.
denly found themselves on
Which brings us to Shas, the
brand new ground and had con-
Sephardic Orthodox party that
siderable difficulty jockeying for
Mr. Rabin courted last year to
positions.
get around the "Jewish major-
On the face of it, the upshot
ity" issue. There are a number
of the vote was a victory for the
of uncanny parallels between
government and a defeat for the
Shas and the Arab parties. Shas
Likud — which has been left in
is no more a "Zionist" party
an embarrassing state of disar-
than they are. Its hard-core con-
ray.
stituents are, like most of Is-
On a deeper level, however,
rael's Arabs, exempted from
even the old definitions and
military service.
rubrics of Israeli politics have
Nevertheless, because it
changed since the mutual recog-
could contribute to the "Jewish
nition of Israel and the PLO,
majority," Shas became Mr. Ra-
leading to thoughts of new
bin's highly coveted fig leaf. But
alignments in the domestic are-
Shas, seemingly intoxicated
na as well.
with the power that goes with
The first change has to do
that role, precipitated a num-
with the attitude toward Israel's
two Arab parties: the Democ-
ratic Front (which is formally a
mixed Arab-Jewish party but
draws its votes overwhelming-
ly from the Arab sector) and the
Democratic Arab Party. Neither
is in Yitzhak Rabin's coalition,
although it was their five Knes-
ber of government crises over
set votes that made it possible
patently irrelevant matters
for him to form a government
(such as whether or not the
19 months ago.
world had been created in six
Their support for direct talks
days), primarily to prove its
with the PLO and the estab-
clout.
lishment of a Palestinian state
Last month, however, Shas's
was reason enough for Prime
leverage changed after the High
Minister Rabin to disqualify
Court of Justice forced both of
them as coalition partners and
its ministers, Aryeh Deri and
throw in his lot with the Or-
Rafael Pinhasi (who have been
thodox Shas Party instead.
indicted on a variety of corrup-
Clinging to a long tradition,
tion charges), to leave the gov-
he believed it was imperative
ernment. With their departure,
for his government to rest on a
Shas found itself out of the gov-
"Jewish majority."
ernment but still inside the
After his daring recognition
coalition.
of the PLO, however, that nu-
Had it voted against the De-
ance changed — subtly, per-
claration of Principles — after
haps, but definitively. While the
Mr. Rabin had classified the
opposition was actively dis-
vote as a motion of confidence
crediting the right of Israel's
in his government — it would
Arab citizens to have an equal
have found itself out of the coali-
share in critical national deci-
tion, as well. And though the
sions, Mr. Rabin quietly
government still wouldn't have
changed his position on the
fallen, Mr. Rabin would have
need for a "Jewish majority."
been left in the position of head-
"A majority is a majority," he
ing a minority government at a
pronounced. He would have
particularly critical juncture.
been happier had he received
So naturally there was am-
the support of 70 of the Knes-
ple drama surrounding the
set's 120 members. But he had
question of how Shas would ul-
no compunctions about pursu-
timately vote. Mr. Rabin paid
ing his policy on the basis of a
repeated visits to Rabbi Ovadi-
simple majority. And he cer-
ah Yosef, the party's venerated
tainly would not apologize for
spiritual leader, naturally fuel-
the fact that five votes of that
POLITICS page 26

The old definitions
of Israeli politics
have changed.

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