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October 8, 2015 / 25 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘United Torah Judaism’

Ashkenazi Hareidi MK Now Cabinet Minister for First Time in 60 Years

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Hareidi Knesset Member Yaakov Litzman now is a full-fledged Cabinet minister, the first time since the days of the Ben-Gurion government that Ashkenazi rabbinical leaders have approved the position.

Unlike the Shas Hareidi Sephardi party, the Ashkenazi Yehadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism party always has insisted that its Knesset Members not take a full Cabinet post, even if in effect they serve as minister, such as Deputy Health Minister Litzman.

The party did not want its members to carry out the responsibility of a full-fledged Cabinet minister, a post that could place Hareidim in a conflict with issues of Jewish law, such as abortion.

An appeal by an NGO to the High Court that a deputy minister cannot serve as minister without being called as such. The judges ruled in favor of the petitioners, leaving the Torah sages little choice but to allow Litzman to become a Cabinet member, with certain unspecified limits.

Torah sages from several Hareidi sects, including Vishnitz, attended a meeting Thursday morning that the Rebbe of Gur organized to discuss the spread of Shabbat violations in the country.

When the topic of Litzman’s becoming a Cabinet minister came up for discussion, and after a telephone conversation with the Rebbe of Belz, approval was given for Litzman to become a Cabinet minister, and he was blessed to “sanctify G-d’s name.”

Understand Israeli Elections – Here’s a Primer, Part 1

Friday, March 13th, 2015

The Israeli political system is radically different from the one in the United States. The most obvious differences are that Israel is a parliamentary system with more than 20 potential parties in the mix, unlike just the two standard American parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

This year 26 parties are vying for positions in the upcoming vote, 11 of which are likely to pass the threshold requirement for becoming part of the next Knesset.

The first step of this year’s Israeli election to determine who makes it into the Knesset at all, then which parties will form the governing coalition, and finally, who will be the prime minister of the state of Israel, takes place next Tuesday, March 17.

The date was set by a formal meeting in early December, of all the then-current Knesset party leaders. Those leaders chose the date for the election to take place in just four months. While four months is a dramatically short campaign period by American standards, Israeli law permits only five months to elapse between the dissolution of one Knesset and the election for the next.

Election day is a big deal in Israel. Virtually everything, except the polling places, is closed. Free transportation is provided for any voter who needs it to reach their regular polling place.

On March 17,  all eligible voters – every Israeli citizen over 18 years of age – can vote. That includes Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews, men and women, able-bodied and those with disabilities. There is no voter registration system; every citizen is automatically registered once they turn 18. Nearly six million Israelis are eligible to vote in this year’s election.


Eligible Israeli voters go to polling places in their neighborhoods. There are more than 10,000 polling places throughout this tiny country. Most open at 7:00 a.m. and remain open until 10:00 p.m.

Turnout for Israeli elections has been declining for years, but it’s still well over 60 percent. In the U.S., turnout has been in the low-to mid 50 percent zone since the early 1970’s.

Before entering the voting booth, each voter is handed an envelope. Inside the booth is a tray, with different strips of paper. Each strip of paper includes the name and symbol of a party. The voter chooses the slip of paper which has the name and symbol of the party for whom they wish to vote, and puts that piece of paper in the envelope they were handed. After leaving the booth the voter places the envelope with their chosen party slip into the ballot box.

Israeli voters choose parties, not individual candidates, which, among other things, means their national representation is ideological, not geographic, and the vote is proportional, meaning the 120 Knesset seats are divvied up in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total vote. There is a minimum threshold for a party to meet before it can sit in the Knesset. That minimum is currently set at 3.25 percent of the total votes cast, which translates into four seats.


Once the polling places close and the ballots are counted, the second phase of the Israeli election begins, the one frequently described as “horse trading.” In order to have the right to form a government and choose the prime minister, a group of parties needs to be able to control a majority of the Israeli Knesset, the single chamber Israeli legislature. The Knesset has 120 seats.

With so many parties competing, no single one has ever attained that magic number of 61 seats, and it is even likely that three or more parties need to agree to work together to form the ruling coalition. Therefore, parties which have been thrashing each other in public now start eying each other as potential dance partners, trying to figure out with whom they can create a functioning coalition to run the government.

This coalition building phase is a little bit like when, after a brutal primary in the U.S., the second place vote getter and the winner frequently kiss, make up, and agree to live with each other as their party’s candidate for president and vice president during the general election. But several different parties and lots of individual members of those parties are all added into the Israeli decision making mix. It isn’t easy.

But first let’s back up. How were the individuals on each party’s list chosen?


As soon as the Knesset is dissolved, either because it reached its four year expiration date, or because it is dispersed for some other reason (such as happened in the current case, when Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the Knesset to disperse and the Knesset unanimously agreed, on Dec. 8), the parties begin internal negotiations to determine who will be on their official “list,” and in what order. The higher up on the list one is, the greater the likelihood of actually making it into the Knesset.

There are various systems for determining who are included, and where they are placed, on each party’s list, including voting by the party leadership. Additional factors are taken into consideration, such as whether enough women are included, whether there are security experts represented, whether certain ethnic minorities will be included.


How does one of the party members then become the prime minister? Israel’s president, currently former Knesset member Ruby Rivlin, selects the member of Knesset believed to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government, given the election results. This can take some time until the parties are able to align so that they can govern together.

Some of the horse trading here involves party leaders with high numbers demanding significant ministry positions in exchange for pledging their party’s support. Compare this to the ability of the U.S. president, once elected, then deciding who will become the various cabinet members.

This phase is incredibly complicated. For example, right now at least five different parties will be needed to join together to create a ruling coalition. And it is not as if just the top five vote-getting parties will join together, because of differences in ideology.

For example, the tiny far left Meretz party, which currently is polling at five seats, thought it would be able to create a power bloc by pairing up with the Joint Arab List. The Arab group dashed those hopes, claiming they would not join with “Zionists.”

Another complicating factor is that certain parties have claimed they will not join in a coalition with Netanyahu, and the Likud has ruled out creating a coalition with other parties, including the current frontrunner, the so-called “Zionist Union.” That party is a joining together of the center-left Labor party and Tzipi Livni and her entourage. Livni has changed parties so many times in the past few years most people just refer to this new party as Labor-Livni.

Once finally selected, the prime minister announces the formation of a new Knesset and the offices each minister will hold.

January 29 was the deadline for all parties to submit their lists of candidates. As of that date, the following parties had the following members in the following order (the parties are listed in terms of their most recent polling status):

ZIONIST UNION (1) Isaac Herzog (2) Tzipi Livni (3) Shelly Yachimovich (4) Stav Shaffir (5) Itzik Shmuly (6) Omer Bar-Lev (7) Hilik Bar (8) Amir Peretz (9) Merav Michaeli (10) Eitan Cabel (11) Manuel Trajtenberg (12) Erel Margalit (13) Mickey Rosenthal (14) Revital Swid (15) Danny Atar (16) Yoel Hassan (17) Zuhair Bahloul (18) Eitan Broshi (19) Michal Biran (20) Nachman Shai (21) Ksenia Svetlova (22) Ayelet Nahmias Verbin (23) Yossi Yona (24)Eyal Ben-Reuven (25) Yael Cohen-Paran. The left-center Zionist Union was forged by combining Labor and Tzipi Livni and her followers, has very recently been polling at between 20 and 24 seats.

LIKUD: (1) Benjamin Netanyahu (2) Gilad Erdan (3) Yuli Edelstein (4) Yisrael Katz (5) Miri Regev (6)Silvan Shalom (7) Moshe Ya’alon (8) Ze-ev Elkin (9) Danny Danon (10) Yariv Levin (11) Benny Begin (12) Tzachi Hanegbi (13) Yuval Steinitz (14) Gila Gamliel (15) Ophir Akunis (16) David Bitan (17) Haim Katz (18) Jackie Levy (19) Yoav Kish (20) Tzipi Hotovely (21) Dudu Amsalem (22) Miki Zohar (23) Dr. Anat Berko (24) Ayoob Kara (25) Nava Boker. Likud has been polling at between 26 and 20 seats, most recently declining.

YESH ATID (1) Yair Lapid (2) Shai Piron (3) Yael German (4) Meir Cohen (5) Yaakov Peri (6) Ofer Shelah (7) Haim Yalin (8) Karine Elharrar (9) Yoel Razvozov (10) Alize Lavie (11) Mickey Levy (12) Elazar Stern (13) Pnina Tamano-Shata (14) Boaz Toporovsky (15) Ruth Calderon. Yesh Atid focuses on social and economic issues and was brand new for the last elections. Yesh Atid has been polling at around 10 – 13 seats.

JOINT ARAB LIST (1) Aiman Uda (Hadash) (2) Masud Ganaim (Islamic Movement (3) Ahmad Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) (4) Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash (6) Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Islamic Movement) (7) Haneen Zoabi (Balad) (8) Dov Khenin (Hadash) (9) Taleb Abu Arar (Islamic Movement). The Joint Arab party has been polling between 11 and 13 seats.

BAYIT YEHUDI (1) Naftali Bennett (2) Uri Ariel (3) Ayelet Shaked (4) Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan(5) Nissan Slomiansky (6) Yinan Magal (7) Moti Yogev (8) Bezalel Smotrich (9) Shuli Mualem (10) Avi Wortzman (11) Nir Orbach (12) rabbi Avi Rontzki (13) Orit Struck (14) Anat Roth (15) Ronen Shoval. Bayit Yehudi, the religious Zionist party, has recently been polling between 10 and 14 seats.

KULANU (1) Moshe Kahlon (2) Yoav Galant (3) Eli Alalouf (4) Michael Oren (5) Rachel Azaria (6)Tali Ploskov (7) Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton (8) Eli Cohen (9) Roy Folkman (10)Merav Ben-Ari. Kulanu is a brand new party created by its number one on the list. Kahlon is understood to have destroyed the cell phone monopoly in Israel. Kahlon has not ruled out joining with Likud or Zionist Union. His determination to be the next finance minister is well-known. Kulanu has been polling around 8 – 10 seats.

SHAS (1) Aryeh Deri (2) Yitzhak Cohen (3) Meshulam Nahari (4) Yakov Margi (5) David Azoulay (6) Yoav Ben-Tzur (7) Yitzhak Vaknin (8) Avraham Michaeli. Shas (the Sephardi Haredi party which has experienced severe upheaval since its leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s death in Oct. 2013) has been polling pretty consistently at 7 seats.

UNITED TORAH JUDAISM (1) Yaakov Litzman (2) Moshe Gafni (3) Meir Porush (4) Uri Maklev (5)Menachem Eliezer Moses (6) Israel Eichler (7) Yaakov Asher (8) Eliezer Sorotzkin. UTJ, the Ashkenazi charedi party, has recently been polling between 6 and 7 seats.

YISRAEL BEITEINU (1) Avigdor Lieberman (2) Orly Levy-Abekasis (3) Sofa Landver (4) Ilan Shohat (5) Sharon Gal (6) Hamad Amar (7) Robert Ilatov. Yisrael Beiteinu is identified with the Russian immigrants and is considered right wing, although it does not believe in annexing Judea and Samaria. It has been polling at 5 seats for quite some time.

MERETZ (1) Zehava Gal-on (2) Ilan Gilon (3) Issawi Frej (4) Michal Rozin (5) Tamar Zandberg (6) Mossi Raz (7) Gaby Lasky. Meretz, which is left on social and Arab-Israeli issues, has been polling pretty consistently at around 5 seats.

YACHAD (1) Eli Yishai (2) Yoni Chetboun (3) Michael Ayash (4) Baruch Marzel (5) Sasson Trebelsi. Yachad, only recently created as a split off from Shas, has been polling between 4 – 6 seats.

Other parties which are not expected to reach the threshold number of votes include the Green Party, the Green Leaf (legalize marijuana) Party, Rent with Honor Party, the Economics Party, a Charedi Women’s Party (called Ubezchutan) and even something called the Pirate Party. Gotta love Israelis.

JewishPress.com will post another primer once the elections reach the second phase: assembling the ruling coalition.

Lapid Freezes Funding for Draft-Delayed Haredim

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday froze the money going to Haredi yeshivas, following a Tuesday Supreme Court ruling that ordered the state to halt all payments to yeshivas whose students’ draft has been postponed.

Lapid instructed the Finance Ministry’s comptroller to freeze the payments, but on Thursday he issued a statement saying that, after discovering that the funds had already been sent to the Education Ministry, he convened an emergency meeting with his comptroller following which he ordered her to block those funds as well.

Lapid’s statement said that this was done in an effort to obey the high court’s ruling.

Now the two offices will be cooperating to separate the 18- to 20-year-old yeshiva students with an August draft postponement, who will not be paid, from the rest of the yeshiva students.

“These will no longer receive state funds,” said the Lapid statement. “Only once the Education Ministry’s examination of their cases is concluded will the Finance Ministry release the funds to those yeshiva students not included in the court ruling.”

The Supreme Court ruled on several appeals from so called good government groups. The court ordered government to issue an updated announcement by March 31 regarding the pay, saying the justices might issue a new decision should the Knesset not come up with new legislation by then.

Meanwhile, the justices have prohibited government to transfer any funds “intended to support Torah institution students born in 1994, 95 and the first half of 96, who received their draft date starting in August, 2013, and who have not shown up to be drafted based on general decisions to postpone their draft made by the IDF Chief of Staff.”

So, everybody wins: Lapid gets to show his few remaining potential voters that he’s tough on parasitic Haredim; the Haredi yeshiva deans get to show the world that Israel hates Torah; and Yeshiva students and their families get a rare opportunity to drop their nasty habit of eating several times a day and living in homes.

Yair Lapid Losing Popularity

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Yesh Atid party, chaired by Yair Lapid, continues to lose popularity in the latest poll, with Meretz picking up the pieces and Likud, Jewish Home and Labor holding on to their strength.

If elections were held today, Lapid’s party would win only 12 seats, compared with 19 Knesset Members that it won in the elections last February, according to the Smith polls commissioned by Globes business newspaper.

In the previous poll, Yesh Atid won 14 seats, and the reasons for Finance Minister Lapid having fallen into disfavor range from his cuts in welfare support and child allowances to tax hikes and his undiplomatic remarks that his critics are like “nervous schnauzers left out in the rain.”

The left-wing Meretz party picked up another two seats in the latest poll, which now gives it 11 projected seats in the Knesset, almost double its current strength.

The Likud-Beiteinu, Labor and Jewish Home parties are unchanged, and Tzipi Livni managed to pick up one seat after seeing her popularity plummet in the last poll. Her HaTnuah party now would win four seats, two less than it currently has. Shas lost one seat in the poll to the United Torah Judaism Haredi party.

Haredi MKs’ Holy Vision: Draft Law behind Israel’s Woes

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Two leading Haredi Knesset Members have delivered a revelation, apparently based on their Kabbalic insights, that Israel’s latest security and economic woes are a direct results of God’s vengeance for the universal draft that recognizes Haredi youth as equal to other Jewish citizens required to serve the country.

MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party handed down to the common people his prophetic insights.

Everything was just dandy before Yair Lapid came along, according to his understanding. There were no missiles from Gaza threatening Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There was no poverty. The deficit, to a certain extent bloated by funding for yeshiva education, did not exist.

Syria was not a threat, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt really liked Israel.

So what happened that all of a sudden Syrian President Bashar Assad threatens Israel with missiles and Finance Minister Lapid raises taxes and cuts spending?

It’s the draft, stupid, the draft that demands that Haredi young men actually stop studying in yeshivas – except for the ones who don’t – and serve the country like every other Jew in Israel is supposed to.

The argument has been heard hundreds of times that studying Torah protect Israel through its spiritual rewards.

But this time, MK Gafni seems to have stayed on Mount Sinai too long since the Shavuot holiday.

When they [Yesh Atid] didn’t harm the Torah, there was quiet, also on the security front,” he said. “Syria was a country far away. There was quiet. Israel’s credit rating rose. We were in an excellent economic situation. They started harming the Torah; Syria got closer to us….Missiles are now pointed at Tel Aviv. I believe in this with full faith. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions like me who believe this. They harmed the Torah and so Israel’s credit rating is plummeting.”

Another Haredi MK, Yisrael Eichler, has identified two wars in Israel. “The first, against the Arabs, stems from security reasons, and the second is a cultural one, aimed against the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle,” said, according to the Yisrael HaYom newspaper.

“Anyone who is truly concerned about Israel’s security knows that only soldiers who are fit for battle should be drafted, subject to security officials’ discretion, not the commissars of secular culture.”

After the Knesset passed the universal draft law, Gafni announced that only two countries in the world have jailed Jews for learning Torah: Rome and Israel.

Thousands of Israeli men fight in the army and learn Torah in their spare time. Combat soldiers serving next to my community in the southern Hevron Hills come to our synagogue daily and open up their Talmud after praying.

So far, no has arrested them. Our security seems to be more or less okay, and the community’s budget is tight but balanced.

Could it be that these soldiers guarding the country and guarding the Torah know something that Gafni and Eichler don’t know?

Lapid Clashing Openly with Haredi MKs as Country Cheers

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Israel’s C-Span is the Knesset Channel (33) which political junkies like myself are hooked on. It’s better than Hollywood boxing matches because it’s just as bloody but with real athletes. A case in point was Monday’s fantastic bout between fresh Finance Minister Yair Lapid and three Haredi MKs which the former won, in this sportscaster’s opinion, if not by a knockout then surely by points.

Lapid, who actually does some amateur boxing in his spare time, was at the Knesset podium to discuss the coming cuts his office will introduce, in order to stop the deficit hemorrhaging of state funds (holding at about $13 billion at last count). It was Lapid’s first speech in his new capacity, which the chairman, MK Meir Sheetrit used when asking the Haredi MKs to cut him some slack this being his “virgin speech.” Lapid mumbled that it was the first time in many years his name and the concept of virginity were used in the same sentence.

It was that kind of a parliamentary confrontation, stormy, angry, and deliciously witty.

As soon as Minister of Finance Lapid rose to get to the podium, he was already attacked by members of the United Torah Judaism, accusing him of a slew of sins, all of which stemmed, supposedly, from his bigoted attitude towards Haredim.

“I empathize with Mr. Porush sorrow over the fact that you are no longer members of the coalition government,” Lapid shot back, clearly enjoying himself. “these must be very difficult times for you.”

That was funny! But Lapid had just begun. Next he turned on the same Haredi MKs, after they accused him of running a deficit budget. “Did you juts come down to Earth from mars?” he asked. “Were you not partners over the last thirty years in the governments that created this deficit? This deficit is written on your name, my job is to solve the deficit you created. And, mind you, you were not exactly the cheapest coalition members…”

When he presented his proposed vote of no-confidence (there was a whole bunch of those Monday), MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) made the tactical mistake of mentioning that Israel is a country surrounded by enemies.

Lapid replied: “You had the courage to come and say that the most important issue is security. You are worried about the decline in the rates of IDF recruitment? Do not concern yourself, this government will make sure that there will be many new recruits from your very own backyard. Do not concern yourself about the strength of the IDF. Every draft dodging is unacceptable, everyone will be drafted.”

Swoosh! Score! Three pointer!

Haredi Mk Gafni asked Lapid: “Why do you issue Facebook Messages on Shabbat?” to which Lapid responded angrily: “I’m entitled to send messages on Shabbat, I’m not a religious man, you are free to do what you want on Shabbat, and I’ll do what I want on Shabbat.”

On Tuesday morning, MK Gafni told the Army radio it was a mistake to confront Lapid as he and his two colleagues had done. Lapid ate them for lunch and the entire country cheered him on. A Haredi journalist told The Jewish Press he was begging the Torah Judaism MKs not to play into Lapid’s hands, and instead get him where it hurts, make fun of him and his dubious liberal arts education. The Haredim will have to think outside the box on this one, or the next four years will be an endless sitcom with themselves in the role of the village idiots.

The pièce de résistance of Lapid’s manhandling of the three Haredi amigos was the issue of cutting back child support. Of all the coming cuts, this one is expected to be the cruelest. So you’d have thought that the Haredi MKs would score big on this obvious slow ball over center plate? Not on Monday.

“The people who are expected to take care of children in the first place are their parents,” he said sternly, and then poured forth a hundred years of prejudiced, Haredi loathing criticism about making all these babies without a care in the world, because the nanny state will take care of them. It was hard to watch, and if the Torah Judaism MKs are not careful, their own Haredi voters would go for Lapid next time. Already Time Magazine has included the new handsome in its list of 100 most influential people – while dropping Netanyahu altogether!

What Are They Crying About?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

It is difficult to understand the ultra-Orthodox reaction to its exclusion from the government coalition. After all, that’s how it goes in politics – sometimes you are in, sometimes you are out. For many long years, the ultra-Orthodox were in the coalition and the religious Zionists were out. Now they have changed places.

So what? Why all the lamenting, cries of despair and threats of destruction of the settlements, God forbid? Everybody with some common sense knows that nobody is going to send the yeshiva boys to prison camps and that no serious Torah learner is going to have to stop learning. What is causing such an exaggerated ultra-Orthodox reaction? It doesn’t make them look very good, so why throw years of friendly cooperation into the trashcan? Why incite baseless hatred of their constituency? What is going on here?

To understand the ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionists must remember how they felt and reacted after the Expulsion from Gush Katif. “How can you possibly compare the two?” you may ask. “Entire communities were razed in Gush Katif and with the ultra-Orthodox, it is simply a questions of politics.”

That is true. The destruction experienced by the religious Zionists was entirely real, and the pain of the expelled unbearable. But the intensity of the grief and the religious Zionist reaction to the Expulsion were much more than simple sharing of the pain of those driven from their homes. Settlements were destroyed before Gush Katif – and subsequently, as well.

In Gush Katif something much bigger than houses was destroyed. It seemed that what was destroyed there was ideology. That was the source of the deep pain and grief. That was what motivated the lamentation and the heartbreaking images, images like the picture of the Netzarim expellees carrying the menorah from their synagogue, creating an immediate association with the image of the menorah from the Beit HaMikdash being carried by the Jews exiled from Jerusalem.

That same destruction of ideology is what is being experienced now by the ultra-Orthodox. Interestingly, the reaction of the religious Zionists then and the ultra-Orthodox now are amazingly similar.

Until the expulsion from Gush Katif, the religious Zionists still believed that the redemption process was on “automatic pilot.” True, there were some malfunctions (some of them major) here and there but they could be explained away or ignored.

In Yamit Israel succumbed to the enticement of “peace,” and Oslo could be blamed on the Left. But when the Expulsion took place, Yair Lapid offered this explanation: “We had to teach you a lesson.” In other words, we drove you from your homes and destroyed your communities because we – the mainstream of the return to Zion – are simply unwilling to accept your interpretation, your ideology and your Rabbi Kook. So please get out of our sights and let us live our daily lives without your unbearable Messianism.

That is why we cried so bitterly. Not only about Gush Katif. We cried because they threw us out, threw out our belongings after us, and slammed the door shut – while life in Israel continued as if nothing had happened. It was much more than Gush Katif. It was the ideological breaking point and ultimate humiliation. The tears were meant to make our mainstream “father and mother” open the door for us once again.

Now that we understand what happened to the religious Zionists, we can understand what the ultra-Orthodox are experiencing. Certainly not with the same intensity, for to them Zionism is much less a father and mother than it is to the religious Zionists. But it is the same insult, based on the ultra-Orthodox feeling of belonging to the state. The Neturei Karta sect, for example, vociferously opposed to the state, was not insulted at all.

In other words, the more insulted the ultra-Orthodox are, the more they show how much they belong to the collective. And that is good news.

…To be continued

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/moshe-feiglin/what-are-they-crying-about-part-i/2013/04/10/

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