Who would have believed that the political leaders of the Haredi public and Finance Minister Yair Lapid would find themselves as secret partners in the very same political fix?
The fact is that the new “equal burden” political maneuvering favor both the Haredi public as well as Yair Lapid, until the two have become Siamese twins. What a lovely pair. From now on, either side’s right to exist depends on the other. Take away the equal burden controversy and both would lose their core issue.
And so both sides are serving the ball to each other’s court and draw life from each other. The cries against the “draft decree,” the million men rally, the emergency conference of the Torah gedolim and all the rest of the fireworks coming out of the Haredi public serve Lapid well. In his next election campaign, he will present Haredi rage as confirmation of his commitment to enlist Haredim into the army. “I promised and delivered.”
Without the confrontation with the Haredim, Lapid could be erased in the next elections (as happened to his late father in the 2006 elections—from 15 seats down to 0.16% of the votes, less than a single seat). So that if there wasn’t a Haredi protest, Lapid would have had to invent it. It’s his insurance policy, and it might even increase his presence in the next Knesset. He can’t ask for anything better.
Likewise, the Haredim are coming out of the draft crisis as winners. The only true fear they had—economic retribution—was removed by Lapid Jr., to be replaced by criminal retribution against draft dodgers, which are never going to happen. And last week the Haredim won an even bigger advantage, when it was decided that Zionist yeshiva students, who always serve, will be counted as part of the Haredi quota.
And so we need to take with a grain of salt the Haredi screaming and yelling and threats of leaving the country, and even bloodshed (as was articulated by Rabbi Shmuel Deutch, a dean at Yeshiva Kol Torah). It’s a bluff, it’s one big collaboration between the two supposed enemies, it’s a fraud.
Except that the Haredim, rightfully so, prefer to hide their victory, the biggest they could hope for. If they dare express satisfaction about their enormous achievement, it could push the bill back to committee and change it for the worse. Much better to demonstrate and protest and plead with Heaven and Earth. It will also help with the fund raising abroad. What else can one ask for?
Former Shas Minister MK Ariel Atias whispered: “We never dreamed we’d get such a resolution. But we keep mum, we’re not allowed to talk.”
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni stated in a closed meeting with Tzanz Chassidim: Our side won. We’re talking six years and a half years during which they won’t touch Torah students.”
Criminal sanctions? Gafni mused, adding: Even today, when there is a draft law for everyone, and a criminal threat hovered over yeshiva students, no one went to jail. But we mustn’t congratulate ourselves on this achievement, “if there are too many praises, they’d want to change the law even before it came to the Knesset plenum.”
At the same conference, Gafni ridiculed Committee Chair Ayelet Shaked, from the Jewish Home, despite her personal sacrifices on behalf of Haredi interests. “This klutz is sitting there, she makes me want to throw a desk on her,” he apparently said. It’s just his way of saying thank you.
Rank and file Haredim, and rabbis who receive their political information through “accepted” sources, are not aware of the grandness of the Haredi victory. They believe Yated Neeman when this publication screamed: “They’ve Raised a Hand Against the Torah of Moses” (and here we innocently thought that transgressing the mitzvah of “do not stand over your fellow’s blood” and not joining the army engaged in a holy war against our enemies – that this constitutes raising a hand against the Torah of Moses).
The extremist faction’s magazine Peles called on haredim to “Gather and defend our souls.” The Shas publication Yom L’yom rebuked the new law as “Eternal disgrace.” The world is collapsing, the sun was put out in the middle of the day.
But it’s all just talk. In reality, everybody is happy. And both sides are interested, for electoral and factional reasons, in fanning the flames.
Haredi journalist and blogger Chaim Shaulzon has written: “We must cry out, protest and warn, and show how displeased we are. If, God forbid, we’ll say the truth, they’d go back to committee and do everything in their power so we should pay the price. The other side feels it got what it wanted and is calm. That’s the best situation for all of us.
“As to the law itself,” Shaulzon notes, “it is excellent for Haredim, there’ll be no problem to cover the quotas. If we understand that they agreed to include everybody in the count of yeshiva students, including the National Religious, then it means we’ve solved all our problems. Because the National Religious do serve in the army, and there are a few Haredim who do as well, so there’ll be no problem at all.
“Our situation has even been improved,” he concludes. “The yeshiva budgets have been increased, because they live up to the quotas, and the army will organize for a more Tzniusdik (modest) environment. Many good changes will take place and none of the yeshivas or kolels will be damaged at all.”
And that, folks, is the fix.
About the Author: Born in Tel Aviv in 1943. Graduated Bar Ilan University (Political Science and History) and Haifa University (Political Science). Chaired the Maariv political desk for 24 years. Married with children and grandchildren. Living in Raanana.
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