Elections? Not a Moment Too Soon

The upcoming elections in Israel are a blessing in disguise. The cost, an estimated NIS 1.2 billion and government paralysis for six months, are a small price to pay to rid the country of a dysfunctional coalition that is tearing away at the fabric of Israeli society, undermining relations with the United States, jeopardizing national security and making a shambles of the economy.

For a year and a half, the country has been subjected to an unprecedented wave of anti-religious legislation that has battered the status quo to the point that it is barely recognizable. The law not only imposes the military draft on yeshivah students, but brands them as criminals for failing to comply, with all that entails. Bills on non-halachic conversions have been advanced to the point that Torah Jewry has been forced to contemplate the creation of a sefer yuchasin data base. The religious courts have been subjected to brutal attempts to reduce their influence and jurisdiction.

The national budget has been used by Finance Minister Yair Lapid to carry out his experiment in social engineering, to try and impose the core curriculum and to force kollel students to leave the beis medrash. In his crusade, he has discriminated against religious families seeking mortgages and mercilessly slashed funding to anything connected to Torah: yeshivos, Bais Yaakov seminaries, religious camps, kollels, overseas yeshivah programs, day care centers.

The hardship he has imposed on chareidi families is incalculable and his dismissal from office has come not a moment too soon.

Lapid and Tzipi Livni, his co-conspirator, have acted as an opposition within the government, badly undermining Israel’s status in the international community, especially in the United States. The Cabinet voted to cease peace talks with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas after he joined up with Hamas, a terror organization that is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and Livni nonetheless went to meet him.

The prime minister speaks of the need for a Nationality Law, correctly stating that he can’t demand that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state if the Knesset won’t do so, and Lapid and Livni mock the move as unnecessary.

Worse, when it comes to Iran and other threats, Livni and Lapid, the great experts on national security, paint Netanyahu as a paranoid who sees enemies where none exist. Such votes of no-confidence, coming from members of Netanyahu’s own security Cabinet, can’t help but undermine Netanyahu, and Israel, in the eyes of the world.

As regards national security, the government was in an impossible situation whereby Lapid controlled the purse strings and childishly refused to transfer the necessary funds to the defense establishment. The security situation in the Middle East, as Hamodia’s military correspondent, A. Pe’er, points out this week, is more precarious than ever. Billions are needed for training, for the purchase of advanced fighter jets, for the completion of missile systems that, b’ezras Hashem, can protect against Iran’s nightmare weapons.

Moreover, the absence of a united leadership that speaks out clearly about Israel as a Jewish state and that holds Abbas accountable for incitement and violence, encourages Israel’s enemies, especially the Palestinians, to think they can get away with violence in Yerushalayim and elsewhere.

The economy under Lapid has gone from growth to contraction and his zero-percent VAT for first-time home-purchasers was viewed by most economists as a waste of NIS 3 billion. He clearly had to be replaced to prevent the economy from going into a tailspin.

But while the elections are welcome, the campaign is fraught with danger. Lapid, needing to distract the voters from his abysmal failure as finance minister, is recklessly resorting to his trademark chareidi bashing.

“Instead of improving middle-class salaries and helping the disadvantaged, the prime minister would rather raise taxes and pay the chareidi parties out of the pocket of the Israeli middle class,” he said last week, while still a member of the government. “This is the bad, old-fashioned deal with the chareidim.”

The chareidi parties have acted as a responsible opposition for the past year and a half, fighting as best they could the array of decrees imposed by Lapid’s government. They have taken a principled stand not to join this government, regardless of the entreaties from all the parties.

But this hasn’t stopped a hateful person like Lapid from rolling out the old canards about “deals with the chareidim” at the expense of the middle class. The more he fails at the polls, the more he will resort to these vile antics.

We hope and daven that the voters will understand that his campaign against religion is the mark of a desperate, failed politician and will show him the door. It is also to be hoped that chareidi voters understand how important this campaign is and will follow daas Torah come Election Day.