To understand just how realistic is the prediction that the January 22 elections will result in a Labor-led coalition, with Shelly Yachimovich as prime minister, you must become acquainted with a traumatic event in Israel’s political history, which has come to be known as HaTargil HaMasriach – the stinky maneuver.
It was the late Yitzhak Rabin who awarded the above maneuver its aromatic name. It described a 1990 attempt by Rabin’s eternal rival inside the Labor party, Shimon Peres, to create a narrow, leftist coalition partnership with the Haredi parties.
The trick almost succeeded, but was blocked finally, believe it or not, by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. We’ll deal with that parsha further down in this report, but, for now, just keep in mind that when you ask the average Israeli who was old enough to follow the news back then about the stinky maneuver, he or she would cite three names: Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon, and Aryeh Deri.
Disturbingly, all three men are today in positions of power, although two of them, Ramon and Deri, have been convicted by criminal court—Deri for embezzling, Ramon for sex without consent—to manufacture yet another stinky maneuver, and this time the numbers are on their side.
Last week, MK Michael Ben Ari of Power for Israel took the podium at a conference of party activists to attack not his favorite target on the right—Bibi Netanyahu—or on the left—take your pick—but the Shas party. And more specifically, Aryeh Deri, a member of the leadership triumvirate who is considered to be the real power at the helm.
According to Ben Ari, in the current situation in Israel’s politics, with two distinct blocks vying for the voter’s chit, Aryeu Deri is perfectly capable of scrambling all of Bibi’s best laid plans for a right-leaning or even left-leaning coalition, and deliver Shas over to the leftist block.
“It’s no secret that Aryeh Deri is deep inside the left,” Ben Ari said. “His friends, led by Haim Ramon, are clearly leftists. The daily Yedioth Aharaonoth is pinning its hopes on him as the left’s great, last hope, while the leftist papers have turned him into their “etrog,” and have forgiven him his serious corruption convictions.”
Ben Ari added: We’ve already been to that scenario where Deri took votes from the right and handed them over to the left. Today this is an obvious thing, which he himself is not denying.”
In a statement to The Jewish Press, MK Ben Ari advised anyone planning to vote for Shas, “if they’re really looking to vote for someone who is loyal to the Torah, to vote for Power for Israel.”
“Unfortunately, the cowboy [Deri] is back on the range,” Ben Ari added, “and he hasn’t been concealing his intentions.”
Perhaps to allay his party voters’ fears regarding such a possibility, on Saturday’s “Meet the Press” on Channel 2, Deri called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to immediately invite him to negotiate the next coalition government. “Call me,” Deri invited Bibi, looking at the cameras, “I will come to your house and we’ll decide about [Shas] entering the government.”
In response, Likud-Beitenu came after Deri with both fists pounding: “The public should remember Deri’s association with the left during the Oslo Accords. Those who vote Shas may find it in a coalition with the Left.”
Deri seems to have forgotten the Likud’s partner, the largely Russian-born Israel Beitenu, led by former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. Just days ago, Shas was forced by the Knesset elections committee to take down their commercial showing a blonde, goyish looking Russian bride, who under the chupah receives her Jewish conversion by fax. That slight will not make for warm ties between Liberman and Deri, even if the latter actually ends up inside Netanyahu’s government.
In response, Deri told Yedioth that “this is not appropriate. We’re hearing Likud accusations of having contacts with the left, while they are not willing to sit with us. Was it because Netanyahu himself is planning a center-left coalition? Instead of attacking us, let them declare whether or not they want to go with us or with the center-left.”
“Despite all the occupations with the health of [Rav Ovadia Yosef, who suffered a minor stroke], I am prepared to start talks even tonight,” Deri added, explaining that the chupah commercial was not intended as a slight against Russian immigrants: “Our commercial is light and satirical, and doesn’t utter a bad word against anyone.”
Not anyone specific, that is, only about one million Russian immigrants…
It should be noted that, prior to his minor stroke, Rav Ovadia has been vocal about his fear of the conscription of Haredi yeshiva students. He even went as far as to state that the conscription would drive many Haredim to leave the country (which many secular Israelis welcomed with cheers).
But their mentor heavy emphasis on this aspect of government, as well as his previous complaints about Netanyahu’s promises to take away the housing ministry from Shas, indicate what Labor would have to do to bring Shas over to “the dark side”:
1. Delay any decision on enlistment of Haredi yeshiva students. 2. Award Shas their three desired ministries, Housing, Interior, and Religious Affairs (one for each top leader). 3. Money, money, money—the key to gaining the love of any Haredi party.
In that context, it is important to remember that while its religious message may be right-wing, Shas’s views on the welfare state are downright Socialist.
Also, Shelly Yachimovich ahs been telling anyone who would listen these past few days, that, should Labor gain 25 seats in the coming elections, President Peres will tap her for the next prime minister.
And, finally, Peres is rumored to have been stirring the pot—with the support of Haim Ramon—trying to get the three leftist leaders, Yachimovich, Livni and Lapid, to form a coalition even before the elections. Count on that group to figure out a way to bypass Netanyahu on the way to a 61-62 seat majority:
The left is expected to gain 40-41 seats. The Arabs will bring home between 10-11. Add to that an 11-seat Shas and you’ve got yourself an apocalyptic coalition.
Likudniks might say that this nightmare scenario should convince folks to give their votes to Likud-Beitenu rather than to, say, Naftali Bennett or Power for Israel. But those two would tell you that if you won’t vote for either one of them, you’ll get a left-leaning Likud government.
Thank God, it’s only 10 more days…
Now, as promised: The Stinky Maneuver.
In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker floated the first trial balloon regarding a conference that would include Israelis and Palestinians, to discuss a 2-state solution. Shimon Peres, who served as Yitzhak Shamir’s vice premier and as finance minister, was all in favor of the idea – Shamir killed it.
Labor’s three wise men—Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Haim Ramon—concocted a secret deal with Aryeh Deri and Shas to topple the Likud-led government. Labor—which was a member of the coalition, mind you—called for a vote of no confidence in Shamir’s government, over the Baker proposal.
Shamir fired Peres on the spot, and the rest of Labor’s ministers resigned. Shamir watched in horror how the no confidence vote was approved by 60-55, supported by the Haredi Agudat Israel, and with most Shas MKs absent from the plenum.
The rest worked according to plan: President Haim Herzog tapped Shimon Peres, in his new role as head of the opposition, to cobble a new government, and by April 11, 1990, Peres presented his new, 61-member coalition government to the Knesset’s approval. Except now it was Peres’s turn to watch in horror, as only 59 members of his coalition (which included 6 anti-Zionist Arab MKs) showed up to vote.
The day before, or thereabout, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (whose people denied it and might continue to deny it until you get them in a closed room with enough vodka) directly ordered two Agudah MKs, Avraham Verdiger and Eliezer Mizrachi, to oppose the new government.
Eventually, the president had to turn back to Shamir, who, on June 11, presented a right-wing and Haredi coalition.
Yitzhak Rabin, who liked serving as Shamir’s defense minister, was irate at Peres for his underhanded tactics and, obviously, for the fact that they exploded in both their faces. Besides coining the term “the stinky maneuver,” Rabin also declared that it represented not just a tactical failure, but a conceptual failure as well. Rabin did not believe in trying to impose critical change on the country through a narrow government, especially not one that relied on Communist Arabs for its parliamentary stability.
Of course, that bit of wisdom didn’t stop Rabin himself from imposing the Oslo agreement only a year later, relying on a 62-member coalition government, two of those votes purchased with Volvos.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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