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February 28, 2003 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

This Week

to back bills presented by individual members with-
out the backing of their parties; the most they can do
is abstain if such proposals come to a vote.
Acknowledging that Shinui legislators no longer
could support a private member's bill on civil mar-
riage that they had proposed jointly with a Labor leg-
islator, Shinui's Yehudit Naot declared Monday,
"There are things you just can't do when you're in
government."
serve
first
in
the
army.
LESLIE SUSSER
A few days before he signed the coalition deal,
On the face of it, canceling the Tal Law seems like a
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Lapid
insisted that "whether we end up in the govern-
major step forward in the campaign for equality
ment
or
not, I see in our agreement with the NRP a
between secular and fervently Orthodox Israelis. But
Jerusalem
new
chapter
in the relations between secular and
the
Shinui-NRP
agreement
gives
no
indication
of
ince the start of Israel's election campaign last
moderate
religious
people in Israel."
what
will
replace
the
Tal
Law,
stipulating
only
that
a
October, the flamboyant leader of the secu-
However,
few
political
analysts would agree.
committee
will
propose
new
legislation
within
a
year.
ar-rights had been promising a secular revo-
"Where's
the
change?"
the left-leaning secular daily
It is therefore not at all clear that Shinui made any
ution in Israel.
asked
in
a
scathing
editorial Monday, playing
Ha'aretz
gains at all on one of its main election promises: equal
This week, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid seemed to have a
on
the
Hebrew
meaning
of
Shinui's
name.
army or national service for all.
golden opportunity to fulfill his promises when
The
Shinui-NRP
deal
"raises
concern
that in their
Nor did Shinui achieve dramatic breakthroughs on
Shinui — which became Israel's third largest party
eagerness
to
join
the
government,
Shinui's
leaders
two
other
key
election
promises:
civil
marriage
and
after the Jan. 28 elections — agreed to join Prime
have
given
up
some
of
the
most
significant
of their
public
transport
on
the
Sabbath.
The
Shinui-NRP
Minister Ariel Sharon's new Likud-led government.
principles:
freedom
of
religion
and
freedom
But the initial signs for a radical shift in
from religion," Ha'aretz argued.
secular-religious relations were not auspi-
The paper also pointed out that Shinui is
cious: Shinui, which has 15 Knesset seats,
not
pushing for the enactment of more basic
backed off much of its agenda when it com-
laws
enshrining individual and social rights or
promised with the National Religious Party
the
completion
of a full-fledged constitution.
(NRP) on the guidelines of the prospective
"If
Shinui
turns
into another ruling party
government.
with no agenda," the paper warned, "its fate
Moreover, political analysts are questioning
will be the same as the centrist parties that
just how much a government based on
preceded it" — all of which quickly disinte-
Likud, Shinui, the NRP and the hawkish
grated.
National Union bloc — but without the
Lapid blames Labor for staying outside the
Labor Party — will be able to move toward
coalition,
missing the chance to establish an
peace with the Palestinians.
all-secular
government that would have been
The National Union, which is staunchly
able
to
make
far more radical changes to the
opposed to the Palestinian state Sharon says
status
quo.
he supports under certain conditions; tenta-
Labor's secretary-general, Ophir Pines-Paz,
tively agreed Tuesday to join the govern-
retorts
that Shinui torpedoed any chance for a
ment. The inclusion of the seven-member
secular
government by rushing to cut a deal
bloc would give Sharon a 68-seat coalition
with
the
NRP — the patron of Israeli settle-
and a bit of breathing room in the 120-
Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, the leader of Israels secularist Shinui party, left, at
ments
in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip —
member Knesset.
party headquarters in Tel Aviv with other Shinui party members.
that
made
Labor's participation in the govern-
Sharon was expected to present his govern-
ment
nearly
impossible.
ment to the Knesset on Thursday.

Join Sharon?

For Shinui, price of entering government may be its ideals.

Sl

The form of that government took some
shape Wednesday, when Sharon offered the
Foreign Ministry in the new Israeli government to
Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, ousting Binyamin
Netanyahu from his current position. Earlier Wednes-
day, Sharon had offered the Finance Ministry to
Netanyahu, who, at first, turned it down. But later
Wednesday, Netanyahu was reconsidering the offer.

Lopsided Deal

Before Shinui and the NRP signed initial coalition
agreements with the Likud on Monday, they worked
out a bilateral deal on secular-religious affairs that was
mediated by the outgoing mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud
Olmert.
First they agreed to annul the "Tal Law," which
allows for blanket exemptions from military service
for yeshivah students and enables fervently Orthodox
men to join the Israeli work force without having to

Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the
Jerusalem Report.

2/28

2003

22

deal does provide a civil marriage option for an esti-
mated 250,000 people barred from marrying by the
Chief Rabbinate — for example, when one of the
partners is not halachically Jewish or when a descen-
dant of a priestly caste seeks to marry a divorcee.
But the key principle — offering a civil marriage
option for all Israelis — is not part of the deal. Nor is
there any advance on public transport on the
Sabbath: Where such services exist, they will contin-
ue; where they don't, nothing will be done to intro-
duce them.
Perhaps most importantly, the Shinui-NRP deal
leaves the Orthodox monopoly on Jewish religious
affairs in Israel intact. There is no recognition of the
Conservative or Reform streams nor any upgrading of
their secondary status in Israel.
Indeed, except on civil marriage and Sabbath trans-
port, Shinui agrees to back the status quo on religious
affairs.
So binding is this commitment that even on civil
marriage, Shinui's Knesset members are no longer free

The Palestine Question

The presence of the NRP and National Union in the
coalition raises a second question: Will the new gov-
ernment, with its right-wing bias, be able to move
toward peace with the Palestinians?
NRP leaders insist they will not accept Palestinian
statehood in any shape or form, even though that is
the declared aim of the "road map" toward peace
being prepared by the diplomatic "Quartet" of the
United States, European Union, United Nations and
Russia. Sharon has publicly accepted the gist of the
road map, though Israel is suggesting certain changes
that will make the Palestinians' responsibilities more
explicit.
To appease the NRP, Sharon promised that govern-
ment guidelines would include not a commitment to
a Palestinian state but a reference to a speech Sharon
delivered last December, when he outlined his vision
of phased, performance-based progress to Palestinian
statehood.
JOIN SHARON on page 25

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