No Question Marks
March 3, 2003
As all the newspaper headlines heralded, the new government is off and running. For the last week or so politicians, commentators, religious leaders and others have had a field day – why Shinui and not Shas, how could the National Religious Party participate in the same government with the anti-religious Shinui, why is the National Union willing to sit with a Prime Minister who is planning on establishing a Palestinian state, Netanyahu vs Olmert, etc.etc.
In truth, when interviewed by the Jerusalem Post about the NRP’s joining the government, my initial reaction was “Effie gets an F”- referring to party leader Effie Eitam, while expressing great dissatisfaction with his party’s decision. However, as time has passed, I’m not so sure I was right. It is not difficult to enumerate various reasons why both the NRP and the National Union should not be members of Sharon’s government. The Prime Minister’s decision to include a viciously anti-religious party, rather than continue the “historic covenant” between the Likud, Shas and Agudat Yisrael is nothing less than a slap in the face to the “Jewishness” of the State of Israel. The long-term consequences of this choice are frightening. Particularly scary is the possibility that Shinui Interior Minister Avraham Poraz will allow thousands, if not tens of thousands or more of non-Jews to legally immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union.
Just as problematic is Sharon’s categorical support for establishment of a Palestinian state. True, both the NRP and the National Union specifically expressed opposition to this section of the government’s platform. But the question must still be confronted: How can a right wing and/or religious MK sit in the same government with a Prime Minister who will seeming go all out to create a new terrorist monstrosity in Israel’s back yard?
The questions go on and on. But there is another side, which is, of course, the alternative. Had the NRP not joined the government, it is doubtful that the National Union would have agreed to give Sharon his needed coalition majority. That would have left only one alternative: major concessions to Mitza and Labor, including two of the three top cabinet positions, most probably the foreign and defense ministries. Can you imagine Amram Mitzna minister of Defense, (G-d forbid). He was commander of the Central Region in the 1980s, during what is called the “first intifada.” He was, to put it mildly, a total disaster. He did absolutely nothing to stop massive Arab violence against Jews, especially on the roads. He hasn’t changed. Or perhaps that’s inaccurate. He’s gotten worse. Would we really have wanted a Likud-Shinui-Labor government? Needless to say, the answer is no.
And, going back to the NRP and the National Union, there is something to say about their being “insiders.” For instance, the left is just drooling to do away with the Religious Affairs ministry, which is now under control of Rabbi Yitzhak Levi. He will, together with his colleagues in the NRP, be able to effectively prevent this, at least for the foreseeable future. Both parties hold important cabinet positions, and should have some influence on government policies. And should events take a turn for the worse, they can always leave the coalition, as Construction and housing minister Eitam has promised, should the government recognize a Palestinian state.
So, maybe for the time being, it is preferable that they be “in” rather than “out."
But again, in truth, much of this discussion is paltry when examining the real issues. As much as I don’t find Shinui’s policies palatable, we have to keep in mind who the real enemy is – and they’re not sitting in the government.
For example, before the January 28th elections, Sharon met with Arafat’s deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, at his Shikmim ranch. Abu Mazen is one of the prime candidates to replace Arafat, upon his demise. Abu Mazen is considered to be something of a palestinian statesman, a moderate, a force to be reckoned with. At the moment he is in line
to be appointed the PA’s new prime minister or vice president. According to a February 20th article in Ha’Aretz called “Dream Team,” Israel is giving him full backing. In other words, a wonderful man, a worthy partner.
In an interview in the London newspaper Alsharak Alawast, published on March 3, 2003, Abu Mazen said, “"On the basis of the talks held in Cairo we agreed upon the freezing of Palestinian military operations [terrorist attacks] for one year. This, on the condition that the chief Egyptian mediators receive [Israeli] guarantees about an Israeli military cease-fire, a cessation of arrests [of Palestinian terrorists] and on the withdrawal [of the IDF] to their positions before September 28, 2000 [beginning of the current crisis]. We also want a renewal of negotiations.
"We did not say, however, that we are giving up the armed struggle […] it is our right to oppose. The Intifada must continue. The Palestinian people have a right to oppose using all means at their disposal to protect their existence. I would add, that if the Israelis came and settled themselves on your land, it would be in your right to defend yourself using any means necessary…"
According to an IDF spokesman, “Abu Mazen's comments clearly express the Palestinian Authority's position on the subject of a cease-fire with Israel. Abu Mazen, as well as the Palestinian Interior Minister, Hani Elhassan, justify the continuation of the armed struggle against Israeli civilians in Yesha. His comments also imply that Israeli residents of these regions are a "legitimate target" for the "opposition".
Concerning Israeli politics, there are many question marks. But when it comes to determining who the real enemy is, there aren’t any question marks at all.
With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder