Saturday, May 8, 2021

Netanyahu’s New Government – Declaration of War Against The Torah World

 Klal Yisroel has survived many wicked people. They will not break our spirit,” said Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman when he heard the final news.
 
A LOOK AT THE MAKEUP OF THE NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

 

Like a crocodile clawing after its prey, Lapid squeezed all he could out of Netanyahu during the final coalition discussions. Even after Netanyahu agreed to boycott the chareidim, Lapid demanded that Netanyahu throw out Likud’s tried and trusted Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, and replace him with Yesh Atid’s Rabbi Shai Piron. For a moment, there was a glimmer of hope as Netanyahu dug in his heels and threatened to begin negotiations to establish a chareidi based government. Bennet immediately called Netanyahu’s bluff, saying he would have no part of such a government.

 

“There are reports that the Likud is supposedly presenting my friend Yair Lapid with an ultimatum,” he wrote. “My friends in the Likud: Forget it; it’s not going to work, not like this. We have to talk and compromise, all of us, until a government is formed. We have a country to run.”

 

After Netanyahu capitulated and handed the Education portfolio to Lapid, he discovered that yet another hurdle lay ahead. Bennet demanded to be appointed deputy-prime minister, claiming Netanyahu had promised him the job. Netanyahu disuaded him in time to form a government by the Motzo’ei Shabbos deadline.

 

Netanyahu partnered with Lapid and Bennett, neither of whom he trusts, and Tzipi Livni, one of his fiercest enemies during his last candidacy. With this partnership, he is hoping to protect Israel from Syria’s implosion and Iran’s nuclear threat, and guide Israel’s economy through an ongoing global crisis.

 

Shaul Mofaz, leader of the two-member Kadima party, was shut out the coalition after making the mistake of trying to elbow his way in through a triple alliance with Bennet and Lapid. The alliance collapsed and they left him out in the cold.

 

Therefore, only four parties will make up the new government, adding up to a 68-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. For the second time since Menachem Begin’s revolution, the coalition has no chareidi parties, and includes a daunting collection of staunch secularists. On security matters, its members range from hard-line hawks to the center-left. Here is a look at their main policies:

 

Likud-Yisroel Beiteinu (31 seats): Netanyahu’s Likud Party teamed with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Russian Yisroel Beitenu party for the election. The two parties have not officially merged and may soon even separate. Likud is known for taking a tough line toward the Palestinians and for its conservative economic policies. It also advocates strong international action — possibly including a last-resort military strike — against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Netanyahu says he has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, though his party traditionally claimed the West Bank and Yerushalayim for Israel. Yisroel Beiteinu, which represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union, takes an even harder line toward the Palestinians. The party has a more secular following and rejects draft exemptions for bnei yeshiva. Lieberman has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust and currently cannot serve as a mimister in the new government. The Foreign Ministry is being held open for him until the conclusion of his trial — assuming he is cleared. Likud’s Moshe Ya’alon, a former military chief, is the new defense minister, taking over from outgoing minister Ehud Barak.

 

Ya’alon served as Israel’s Chief of Staff from 2002 until June 2005, when he was fired for objecting to the Gaza Disengagement. In the mid-1990s, he disagreed with the government’s early peace talks with the Palestinians. His tough tactics in suppressing Palestinian revolts in the West Bank and Gaza make him vulnerable to war-crime suits by Palestinian supporters abroad.

 

His positions include that “there is no place for a Palestinian state alongside Israel at the current time,” and that “the goals of Abbas are the same as the goals of Hamas.”

 

However, he is reportedly more cautious than Netanyahu when it comes to the question of attacking Iran to prevent its development of a nuclear bomb. Ya’alon may become a key element in the fight to force chareidim to enlist, as many army leaders have said the army can manage quite well without them.

 

Yesh Atid (19 seats): Founded a year ago by former TV personality Yair Lapid, the party represents secular, middle-class interests and surged to become the second-largest bloc in parliament. It has vowed to enact a universal military draft, ending exemptions for bnei yeshiva, and wants to cut the stipends they receive from the state. The party also advocates spending less money on Jewish settlements. Lapid has vowed to make a serious effort to achieve peace. Yet his campaign made little mention of security issues, focusing heavily on a social and economic agenda that favors investment in education and other issues important to the middle class. His party will control the Education Ministry and three other minor portfolios. Lapid himself is slated to become the finance minister, a position which will have great influence over the budget, despite his admitted lack of experience in monetary matters. In reference to a theory that Netanyahu deliberately set him up for failure, Lapid wrote that “If the finance minister fails, he takes the prime minister down with him. We have a shared interest to maintain a good working relationship. My job is not to be popular, but to lead. As the champion of the middle class, I ran on the slogan ‘Where is the money?’ and I am inextricably tied to it.”

 

Habayit Hayehudi (12 seats): Although its core constituency is modern Orthodox Jews, the party surged in the polls on the back of a strong pro-settlement message and the appeal of its charismatic leader, high-tech millionaire Naftoli Bennett, to secularists as well. Bennett is allied with Lapid on most domestic issues, but the two differ sharply over peace efforts and settlement building. A former leader of the West Bank settlement movement, Bennett opposes any concessions to the Palestinians. He has called for Israel to annex large chunks of the West Bank, the heartland of any future Palestinian state. Bennett’s nationalistic party will control the Housing Ministry, giving it the budgets to promote new settlement construction. Bennett will head the Economy and Trade Ministry, which is to merge with the Religious Services Ministry, giving him control of financial and religious institutions. He will also head a special committee to deal with Israel’s cost of living and the problem of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

 

Hatnua (6 seats): Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni formed her party for this election to present an alternative to voters distressed by the stalemate in peacemaking. Livni, who led peace negotiations with the Palestinians in Ehud Olmert’s government, will serve a similar role under Netanyahu. She has been appointed justice minister and has promised an aggressive push for peace with the Palestinians.

 

In brief, Lapid and Bennet have wrested control of Israel’s socio-economic and religious issues, while security and diplomacy remain in Netanyahu’s power. As Netanyahu put it: “We [Likud-Beiteinu] have regained the defense portfolio, and we held onto the foreign portfolio. The most important positions in terms of running the country are in our hands. The next term will be one of the most challenging in the history of the country. This is not an exaggeration — we are facing serious diplomatic and security threats.”

 

Lapid’s determination to reduce the numbere of Knesset ministers from 31 to 22 left many of Netanyahu’s followers resentful.

 

“Netanyahu left the Likud with the crumbs,” a party official said. “Not only did the other parties in the coalition get most of the good portfolios, but Yisroel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman managed to lower the number of Likud ministers to get more for his party. The recalcitrant Knesset members will make things difficult for the prime minister this term.”

 

The most resentful Likudnik was former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, whom Netanyahu ousted in favor of MK Yuli Edelstein.

 

THE SHARED BURDEN

 

The new government is a declaration of war against the Torah world. Its most prominent features are the absence of chareidi membership and the constellation of anti-chareidi statutes it plans to implement. Worst of all is the “Law to Equalize the Burden” due to be presented within about 45 days.

 

The preamble to this section of the coalition agreement sings the old religious-Zionist song of aligning Torah life to the values of modern Israel. Its flattering lines forget to mention that the survival and thriving of Israel’s Torah world is precisely because it has always strictly separated itself from the norms and behavior of the surrounding hedonistic world.

 

“Upon the establishment of the State of Israel out of the ruins of exile and the smoke of ovens, not only Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisroelwas reborn, but also the Torah world began to recover from its ruins,” the preamble begins. “The success was astounding: During the past 65 years, many yeshivos have arisen, Torah students grow and flourish, and sharpness and lamdonus shine from the Torah centers scattered over the length and breadth of Eretz Yisroel.

 

“Restoration of sovereignty and flowering of scholarship, the state and the Torah, these two are the double achievement of the new Israeli history. However, to date, these two were like parallel lines that never meet… The hour calls: Israeli society is ready for the next step — bringing together these two great achievements… to serve the state and its institutions while delving deep into its sources of inspiration. Military and civilian service together with Torah study will strengthen and unify Israeli society in mutual respect for a better, more perfect future.”

 

The flowery prose leaves one wondering. Do Lapid and Bennet seriously think that serving in the army will lead to an improvement in Torah scholarship? Whom are they trying to fool?

 

The coalition document then gets down to business. Enlisting the yeshiva world will be divided into two periods. During a transitory phase from 2013 to 2017, a limited number of yeshiva students will be called up every year based on the demands of the army and civilian service. The goal will be to increase annual enlistment from 3,300 to 5,600. These four years will serve as a grace period. Enlisting will be the obligation of everyone who is 21 years old. However, any bochur or yungerman who turns 22 during this grace period will not be obligated to enlist, and will have the choice of joining the army or going to work and receiving permanent deferment. Those who choose the latter will immediately be trained for professions needed by the workplace.

 

Even after the four years expire, there will be no jack-booted military march into botei midrashim to haul non-compliant learners to jail. Instead, those who fail to cooperate and their yeshivos will suffer as yet unspecified levels of financial penalization. Almost every yeshiva student of 21 will have to enlist except for 1,800 “masmidim,” who will be entitled to study for the next six years and receive especially large stipends. The rest of the approximately 7,000 bochurim turning 18 each year will be subject to financial penalties if they fail to enlist in the army or in civilian programs.

 

Besides adding chareidim to the armed forces, the coalition agreement plans to cut army service of most army units from the present three years to only two years in as early as 2015. Members of combat units serving a third year will receive salaries equal to Israel’s minimum salary of approximately $1,100 monthly.

 

It is interesting to note that Lapid and Bennet’s fanatical demand for equal sharing of the public burden stops short of the Arab public. Here the coalition agreement treads lightly, speaking of increasing Arab enlistment in civilian service on a strictly volunteer basis up to a goal of 6,000 a year. For the Arabs, only positive financial incentives will be utilized due to “the barriers and complexity Arab society needs to deal with.”

 

But forcing bochurim to enlist is only one track of their fight against Torah. In addition, the coalition agreement says that Torah institutions will no longer receive funding for students unless they are Israeli citizens or permanent residents. For decades, the Israeli government has provided funds for foreign students in yeshivos at two-thirds of the sum provided for Israeli students. If this decree is actualized, yeshivos with foreign students will lose this funding even if their students are not army deserters. This edict is just one example of many that the government’s interest is not in drafting bochurim, but rather in battling the yeshiva community.

 

The coalition agreement alsoincludes a number of less direct inducements to force yungeleit awayfrom the Gemara and into the workplace. In seven years time, yeshiva students will no longer pay the minimal amount to social security and health insurance (110 shekels) they have paid for decades, but the slightly larger amount paid by someone earning Israel’s minimum wage. Although the difference between the two is less than 30 shekels, the coalition seems anxious that even the smallest stone should not be left unturned.

 

In addition, the right of yungeleit and students pursuing higher degrees to reductions in daily childcare will be limited to five years. To qualify for cheap housing or many other state benefits such as child care or stipends, applicants will need to be employed, be looking for employment, or at least prove they cannot work. Lack of ability to earn due to full-time Torah study will no longer qualify as an excuse for not working.

 

ANTI-RELIGIOUS THREATS 

 

The new coalition will attack not only Torah learning but the Torah itself. For the first time in Israel’s history, the agreement says no word of the famous “Status Quo” agreement, which dictated that public Torah observance in Israel would continue without increase or decrease of what it was in 1948. For decades, this agreement has settled urgent issues such as whether a town can have public transportation on Shabbos and whether marriages, divorces and conversions should be conducted according to halacha. Last week, already nervous that the Status Quo might be omitted from the coalition agreement, MK Meir Porush of UTJ requested more transparency regarding this in Habayit Hayehudi’s negotiations with Yesh Atid.

 

 “Your voters have the right to know if there will be legislation to allow public transportation on Shabbos, or if you condone quick conversions,” he said. “What is your stance on kashrus issues and the Law of Return? Please provide us with clear answers, as these issues pertain the essence of our nation.”

 

Now he has his answer.

 

Tellingly, a religious-Zionist Group named Ne’emanei Torah V’avodah viewed this new development as an improvement.

 

“This is a historically significant achievement,” the group said. “This is a precedent that will allow change for the better in the relationship between religion and state. We hope that the many promises elected officials have made to change the fundamental approach to religious services, by moving authority to individual communities, will yield fruit for the good of the people.”

Yet another anti-Torahfeature of the coalition agreement is an overhaul of chareidi education, which has been mostly independent from government intervention since the Status Quo agreement with Ben Gurion.

 

Within six months, Rabbi Piron, will unveil a core curriculum including math, science and English, which will become compulsory for all Israeli children within two years after its authorization. Due to devoting most of the day to Torah studies, there are presently few or no talmudei Torah that will come close to his standards.

 

In line with much of the religious Zionist public’s attitude, the agreement also speaks of revamping Israel’s religious services so that they become “more available and pleasant to every citizen.” As minister with the longest title in the government, Economics and Trade Minister, Religious Services Minister, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister, Bennet will personally control not only the Ministry of Religious Services, but also seize control over the rabbinate, the holy places, and the conversion apparatus. His office will also be in charge of Shemittah and its related funds, except where this conflicts with demands of the Agricultural Ministry. Wherever deemed necessary, changes will be made to fit in with the norms of modern society.

 

“We need to made deep changes in the structure of the rabbinate, marriage registration, and kashrus,” said Bennet’s Deputy Religious Minister, “There are many things that need to be put in order. For example, the botei din and cemeteries must be brought into accordance with progress.”

 

RELIGIOUS ZIONISTS STAND TO BENEFIT

 

In contrast to its oppression of the Torah world, the Lapid-Bennet coalition agreement is smilingly benevolent when it comes to religious Zionists. One of its main clauses calls for new legislation that clearly defines Israel as a Jewish state, which will result in religious Zionist institutions seeing their status preserved by special laws and funding. The clause denying government money to foreign students is countermanded by other clauses.

 

Also, according to a special clause in the agreement, huge sums will be transferred to pay parents’ tuition costs for private high schools and ulpanot (seminaries) run by the religious Zionist public.

 

“The financial status of the religious-Zionist schools shall be preserved, and amendments and procedures enacted, in order to regularize the payments,” the agreement states. “The government will enact changes in the budget apparatus of the public religious schools to ensure equitable distribution of the budget among the various population groups that receive budgets under this statute.”

 

Until this is formalized, pupils will be guaranteed a “dedicated scholarship fund” as a temporary stopgap.

 

Religious Zionist housing will also receive priority. With control of the Housing Ministry, Habayit Hayehudi will be able to further its agenda of building in Yehuda and Shomron. Its Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, who has spent his political career advancing settlements, said that although the bulk of building will be in the emptier Negev and Galil, the government would “build in Yehuda and Shomron more or less as it has done previously. I see no reason to change that.” Gush Katif evacuees, who have been mostly living in trailers since the 2005 Gaza disengagement, can now expect a resolution of their ongoing crisis.

 

Habayit Hayehudi and Likud Beiteinu have agreed to establish a basic law that establishes Israel as no longer a “Jewish-democratic” state, but makes the country’s democratic nature subservient to its character as a Jewish people. In light of this, the state will invest its resources in advancing specifically Jewish settlement within its borders.

 

Tzipi Livni vowed to oppose this proposal, and Shas has also vowed to scrutinize every shekel spent on the settlements to ensure there is minimal nepotism involved.

 

“Every shekel they transfer to the settlements will be scrutinized, every appointment will be checked. If they think they can hurt the chareidi world they are wrong,” a Shas member said. “We will use every tool at our disposal.”

 

Finally, as if oblivious of President Obama’s visit, “peace” is mentioned only once in the entire Lapid-Bennet coalition document.

 

PROTEST MEETINGS

 

The chareidi world obviously views the new government with dismay, hoping it will soon crumble under its seismic stresses.

 

“The chareidim are not a group living alongside Israeli society. We are a part of it, just like the residents of the kibbutzim, the secular Israelis, the immigrants and all other populations within our society,” wrote MK Eli Yishai of Shas. “I am sad to see that the newcomers to the government truly fail to understand that. They will forever be politicians, but they will never be leaders… The Prime Minister will have a hard time leading the country, with all its different populations, while he is held captive in a dungeon of hateful whims, erected by the new axis.”

 

MK Meir Porush of UTJ predicted that “Netanyahu can’t lead this business. The coalition will collapse very soon.”

 

The announcement of the new government was marked by chareidi protests.

 

On Motzoei Shabbos, a giant rally attended by gedolei hador and roshei yeshiva was held in Bnei Brak and simultaneously viewed in dozens of locations throughout Eretz Yisroelby hundreds of thousands.

 

“This is a day of great tzoroh,” Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman said in his message. “Each one of us understands what a tremendously great difficulty we are going through. Boruch Hashem, we have been able to study and teach our sons Torah for the past generations. Torah, yeshivos, and bochurim have multiplied. Suddenly, this great difficulty has fallen upon us, a terrible difficultythat threatens to destroy Klal Yisroel and the Torah, Hashem yeracheim. We beg Hashem to enable us to continue learning Torah all our lives and plead that the Torah should not cease from our mouths and our children’s mouths forever.”

 

He concluded by advising how to fight the challenge.

 

“I would like to add that we must invest efforts and increase our study of Torah for then Hashem will help us and the zechus of Torah will protect us,” he said. “So long as people are pained by the great chillul Hashem that will result if Torah study is diminished from Klal Yisroel, it will not come about. Hashem will help that there will be only good results. They will never be able to diminish the Torah and we will merit to see the true ge’ulah soon in our days, amein selah.

 

A message read in the name of Rav Chaim Kanievsky who was present at the gathering, likewise said that the cure to the threat against Torah was to increase our devotion to Torah: “Whoever accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah has the yoke of malchus and derech eretz removed from him, the Mishnah says. Therefore, the government’s threat against Torah learning must be fought by accepting the yoke of Torah upon ourselves even during bein hazemanim.

 

Rav Chaim added that since Hashem turns away from us during times of immorality, during the present calamitous situation, unequaled in Klal Yisroel’s past, everyone should be careful about this and warn his household about it.

 

Rav Dovid Cohen, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron, reiterated the importance of fighting fire with fire. He recalled that when there was a decree against shechitah in Poland, Rav Yeruchom Levovitz, mashgiach of Mir, said that since one concept of shechitah is to separate us from the nations, the Polish decree indicated that this matter was in need of chizuk.

 

“Now that there is a decree against the Torah world, we must strengthen the acceptance of the yoke of Torah and strengthen the covenant with the Torah Sheba’al Peh,” Rav Dovid said. “Everyone must strengthen himself and not remain as he was until now. Certainly, the situation demands we must make achizuk. We must realize that our whole spiritual life hangs in the balance.”

 

Rav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, Rosh Yeshivas Kiryas Melech in Bnei Brak, spoke of the present need for mesirus nefesh.

 

“We are now in the month of ge’ulah, the time of Yetzi’as Mitzrayim,” he said. “From the posuk, ‘Do not desecrate My holy name, for I am Hashem etc. Who took you out of the land of Egypt,’ we learn all the rules of kiddush Hashem, that one must give up one’s life for the three cardinal sins. During times of shemad, one must give up one’s life even for a shoelace. Rashi explains that the Torah writes, ‘Who took you out of Egypt,’ to teach that he took us out on this condition. Hashem made a condition with Klal Yisroel that He was taking them from Egypt on condition they be ready to give their souls to sanctify His name.

 

“We are in a difficult, terrible situation,” he continued. “People want to bring Klal Yisroel to shmad through the impure, disgusting threat of army enlistment. This obligates us to remain faithful to Torah with mesirus nefesh. Now, during bein hazemanim, we must strengthen our learning with mesirus nefesh and strengthen Torah study above the limits of our normal powers.”

 

Other speakers present at the protest were Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh Yeshivas Slobodka, who said the tzibbur had not yet internalized the tremendous severity of what was at stake. As well as, Rav Chizkiyohu Mishkovski, mashgiach of Yeshivas Orchos Torah; Rav Eliyahu Mann, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Yisroel; and Rav Yaakov Hillel, Rosh Yeshivas Ahavas Sholom.

 

At another protest meeting attended by thousands of Sefardi bnei Torah, Rav Ovadiah Yosef said he was certain that the war against Torah would never succeed.

 

“They have presently devoted their attention upon us and want to remove us from the Torah,” he said. “The more we toil, the more we annul their thoughts and plots. We must strive with all our strength to study and teach Torah and Hashem will help us. Hashem is with us, do not fear. We have nothing to be afraid of. ‘These come with chariot, these with horses, but we mention the name of Hashem. They fall and bow down, and we rise and stand firmly.’ Although it is almost Pesach and people go out of yeshiva for bein hazemanim, we must not waste time. Utilize each second possible to learn Torah. When Heaven sees that we strengthen our Torah learning, the plots of our enemies will be foiled and their punishment will fall upon their heads. May we merit that the Moshiach tzidkeinu soon come and redeem us from all difficulties.

 

MOCKERY AT GOVERNMENT SWEARING-IN

 

Together with his 21 ministers and eight deputy ministers, Netanyahu was sworn in on Monday afternoon after the Knesset plenum voted in his coalition by a 68 MK majority. 48 MKs opposed the validation of the coalition and four were absent. MK Yisroel Eichler of UTJ announced his vote by yelling, “Opposed to the sinful government!” Moshe Gafni said he opposed “the evil government,” while Meir Porush was “against the government that boycotts chareidim.

 

Symbolizing the imbalanced nature of the new government, its 21 new ministers included only four women, only three Jews of Sefardi origin, and only one Jew displaying tzitzis — Rabbi Shai Piron of Yesh Atid.

 

The chareidim demonstrated opposition and frustration throughout the induction ceremony and the subsequent debate. UTJ members heckled Netanyahu’s maiden speech. As Netanyahu read Bennett’s name from a list of coalition members, they yelled out, “A Jew doesn’t banish a Jew,” and left the Knesset plenum en masse.

 

UTJ explained: Naftoli Bennett made a deal with Lapid to exclude chareidim from the government. The bulk of our fire was directed against the religious Zionists who recently chanted Jews do not expel Jews,’ and now its representatives betrayed chareidi Jews. The coalition agreement hurts mostly children of the chareidi bnei yeshiva and hundreds thousands of needy people.”

 

The UTJ members later returned to hear Shelly Yachimovich hectoring Netanyahu’s elitist government.

 

“You are a wealthy, satiated leadership,” she said. “Physically speaking, you may be sitting among the people, but you fail to understand the people. The four of you, Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett, and Livni, are well off people who come from privileged backgrounds and have never struggled to make a living. You are all capitalists.”

 

She backed her assertion with figures, noting the that Yaakov Peri, Yesh Atid’s Minister of Science, who recently claimed to be a member of the middle class, earned 2.3 million shekels last years and 3.7 million shekels the year before.

 

“What have you achieved?” she challenged the government. “The enlistment of a few bnei yeshivos. Will solve the deep financial and social problem we face here?”

 

MK Moshe Gafni of UTJ ripped up the coalition agreement from the podium.

 

MK Yaakov Litzman, also of UTJ, spoke and mockingly thanked the coalition for giving him the right of speech.

 

“At the start, I would like to thank you for granting me permission to appear here and speak in the Knesset plenum even though I am wearing a yarmulka and have a beard and peyos,” he said. “At the rate this newly established Knesset is going, I predict that the day is not far off when a chareidi person, a chareidi representative, will be ineligible to be chosen for the Knesset or receive the right of speech in this place. Yes, to my great sorrow, this is the situation in Israel, 2013. Therefore, I thank you.”

 

If I did not have a beard and yarmulka I would still be at my old job in the government,” he noted. Regarding this draft issue he said, “No one spoke to us at all about it. Nobody negotiated with us. In any case, it doesn’t matter, netel shmetel, no yeshiva student will join the army. Don’t let yourselves get confused.

 

“I would like to bless the Jewish people and its citizens of all sectors that they may, b’ezras Hashem, survive the machinations of this evil government, which, to my sorrow, is based on hatred and polarization, to survive the harsh decrees at our door,” he continued. “We, the representatives of UTJ, will be here as your mouthpiece and faithful emissaries in order to keep the discriminatory, Judaism hating government from implementing its plans.”

 

After mocking the cabinet for having only four women and saying he must apologize to the Moetzes for always maintaining that a large sector of religious Zionists loved and respected Torah, Moshe Gafni of UTJ held up the coalition agreements of Lapid and Bennet and declared: “We turn to Hashem and declare that these two agreements do not represent the Jewish people. They represent a group of people with their own personal interests. We do not accept them. In the opposition, we will work hard to be an opposition worthy of the name. I am speaking of [coalition agreements based on the] assertion that Torah students are criminals. There was a time when Chaim Herzog, the Israeli representative in the UN, tore up a decision that Israel was guilty of apartheid, and in a protest in the Yeshurun Shul, his father, Rav Yitzchok Herzog Halevi, took the White Paper that banned Jews from coming to Eretz Yisroeland tore it to pieces.”

 

Gafni then tore the papers in his hand to pieces, threw them to the ground, and concluded, “I hereby tear to pieces these documents that are the White Paper against the chareidi public. They are nothing to do with us, we do not accept them, and they will not be implemented.”

 

A UTJ spokesman said that the party will “fight like lions and not flinch from anything. When the coalition negotiations began, we said that we were not afraid to be in the opposition, as difficult as it may be. They will come to regret having us in the opposition. The Knesset will have a more militant opposition than it has had in many years. We will do whatever we can to bring down this awful government.”

 

During the cabinet’s first meeting that day, the ministers approved the appointments of eight deputy ministers, extended the terms of the two chief rabbis by four months, and established a 135-day deadline for approving the national budget. The new ministers then went to the President’s residence to pose for a traditional group photo.

 

Tuesday was time for business as the new government ministers officially replaced their counterparts. With the fire and fury that has characterized Israeli politics for the past few months, they settled down to the work of running the country.

 

And then the next day, they went into recess for a month.

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