In one blow, without a lot of drama, the balloon burst. All that remains of it are pieces that cannot be put back together again. Last Wednesday evening, during the vote on the conversion bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu, the real power of the Haredi parties was revealed. The balance of terror was broken. After enlisting all of their power, after using the best of their repertoire of threats, after bringing the best of their rabbis and their Councils of Torah Sages, it turned out that they had managed to recruit 18 MKs to vote for their position. Eighteen out of 120.
The Balance of Terror Has Been BrokenIn one blow, without a lot of drama, the balloon burst. All that remains of it are pieces that cannot be put back together again. That’s how balloons are. Last Wednesday evening, during the vote on the conversion bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu, the real power of the Haredi parties was revealed. The balance of terror was broken. After enlisting all of their power, after using the best of their repertoire of threats, after bringing the best of their rabbis and their Councils of Torah Sages, it turned out that they had managed to recruit 18 MKs to vote for their position. Eighteen out of 120. That’s all. Around 15% of the MKs.
Yael Paz-Melamed • Ma’ariv (op-ed)
Translation: Didi Remez • Coteret.com / Special to FailedMessiah.com
If so, the Haredi parties are a lot less strong than what they have tried to present, a much smaller force than what we tended to think, and their power of deterrence is only obtained because Netanyahu decided to give it to them. Not because they endanger his government, but because this is part of Netanyahu’s DNA, his proclivity to wanting to please everyone all the time and to zigzag between two positions that are impossible to bridge.
Bleary eyed, tense, knowing exactly his real strength, Eli Yishai walked the Knesset’s corridors looking for cameras to express his emphatic protest against approving the military conversion bill. He knew he had no chance. After all, he is the first to know how much he is worth when he does not eat at the table of the Zionist and secular parties. So he tried to at least gain some more voters for one day in the future. And MK Gafni, one of the most extreme of the Haredi MKs, cried the “pain” of his party from the Knesset podium.
None of the MKs were perturbed. The balance of power was obvious and known to all. And nobody got excited about threats of dismantling the coalition. That’s how it is with parties that at any price and in any situation will remain in the government, because otherwise they have no raison d’etre. We can assume that Avigdor Lieberman, with his keen political instincts, knew that no danger lurked as to the government’s future. If there had been even a slight chance that the government would be harmed, he might have been less emphatic and vehement in insisting on dotting every i and crossing every t in the matter of the conversion bill that he introduced.
Eli Yishai and the elderly rabbi who decides for him were finally restored to their rightful dimensions: a minority that receives the treatment of a majority, lacking true ability to influence unless someone from the majority volunteers to give them this ability. For years we have been told that within a few years we will become a Haredi state with a small minority of secular from the middle and upper and lower classes that will have to carry, on their skinny backs, the Haredi majority. It could be that this will still happen one day, but not in the next few decades. As of now, there is no danger to Israeli democracy from Shas and Agudat Yisrael.
Furthermore, despite how it seems, the status of the Haredim is being eroded. Their battle to not enlist in the army has long since failed. According to estimates, within five years, 65% of the yeshiva scholars who are today exempt from this burden, will be drafted into the IDF. The allowances that they receive, which until recently were automatically given and without dispute, today elicit great public rage and are not always approved. One of the central activists of the Hillel non-profit organization—which helps the newly secular adapt to their new lives—told me that the flow of those leaving Haredi life is increasing all the time. Another activist said that this flow is a lot stronger than it seems. That is the reason, he thinks, that the power of the Haredi parties is not growing despite the fact that their birthrates are tens of times higher than those of the secular public.
Of course there is still no reason for cries of joy and celebration. Hundreds of thousands of people still live at the expense of the tax payers, parents in the Haredi sector still prefer to bring more children into the world than they can provide for, but the process is there. The level of our annoyance has risen significantly. Our disgust and the disconnection have had an impact. Eli Yishai, all in all, heads a party that numbers just over one third of the Kadima party. Now it remains for the prime minister to stop trembling in fear of them. That he stop groveling to them. That he give them what they deserve based on their numbers, and no more. But in this regard we have no illusions. That won’t happen. And that is what Shas and Agudat Yisrael are counting on.