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
A few days before he signed the coalition deal,
On the face of it, canceling the Tal Law seems like a
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
insisted that "whether we end up in the govern-
major step forward in the campaign for equality
not, I see in our agreement with the NRP a
between secular and fervently Orthodox Israelis. But
in the relations between secular and
ince the start of Israel's election campaign last
people in Israel."
October, the flamboyant leader of the secu-
analysts would agree.
ar-rights had been promising a secular revo-
the left-leaning secular daily
It is therefore not at all clear that Shinui made any
ution in Israel.
editorial Monday, playing
gains at all on one of its main election promises: equal
This week, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid seemed to have a
army or national service for all.
golden opportunity to fulfill his promises when
that in their
Nor did Shinui achieve dramatic breakthroughs on
Shinui — which became Israel's third largest party
after the Jan. 28 elections — agreed to join Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's new Likud-led government.
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,
pushing for the enactment of more basic
backed off much of its agenda when it com-
enshrining individual and social rights or
promised with the National Religious Party
of a full-fledged constitution.
(NRP) on the guidelines of the prospective
into another ruling party
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
National Union bloc — but without the
Lapid blames Labor for staying outside the
Labor Party — will be able to move toward
missing the chance to establish an
peace with the Palestinians.
government that would have been
The National Union, which is staunchly
far more radical changes to the
opposed to the Palestinian state Sharon says
he supports under certain conditions; tenta-
Labor's secretary-general, Ophir Pines-Paz,
tively agreed Tuesday to join the govern-
that Shinui torpedoed any chance for a
ment. The inclusion of the seven-member
government by rushing to cut a deal
bloc would give Sharon a 68-seat coalition
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
the West Bank and Gaza Strip —
party headquarters in Tel Aviv with other Shinui party members.
Labor's participation in the govern-
Sharon was expected to present his govern-
ment to the Knesset on Thursday.
For Shinui, price of entering government may be its ideals.
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.
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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