Marc Schulman


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March 12, 2014 Rockets on the South- Changes in Politics- Shas Wins in Bet Shemesh

Fifty rockets and mortars landed in Southern Israel in the last two hours. The ostensible reason was the Islamic Jihad's desire to respond to Israel killing one of their mortar teams yesterday. Fifty rockets, however, is a large number, and shows some willingness to upset the equilibrium in the South,. As I write this piece the IDF is responding – and that will most likely bring about a further response from Gaza. Both the Islamic Jihad and Hamas are finding themselves in a difficult position, and thus, like cornered animals, it's not clear how they are going to react. The Egyptian crackdown on Gaza and the tunnels supplying it have been almost complete. This has made a bad economic situation even worse, and makes Gaza totally dependent on the supplies coming from Israel. So on one hand, neither of the groups in Gaza is in any position to get into any sort of military confrontation with Israel at the moment. On the other hand, their situation has become so desperate, (and frankly no one in the world cares), that they may feel anything they do can only improve their situation (and at least get them a little attention.) We could be in for some difficult days, but it's too early to tell.

The new Draft bill was officially passed into Law today. It will not have a great deal of impact except on the political front. Aryeh Deri said today that he can’t wait until "Buji" Herzog becomes Prime Minister. Many people are poo-poohing this statement. This evening Shelly Yachimovich was on TV in split screen with a Haredi commentator throwing cold water on the idea. The Haredi commentator repeatedly said it was truly a new day and an opportunity. Shelley continued her dismissive tirade. I was literally yelling at the screen for her to shut up. That is why Shelley is no longer the head of the Labor party. Most observers do not understand the inherent contradiction in the actions of the Ashkenazi Haredim over the last 30 years. The ideological position of Haredi rabbis has always been anti-settlement and supportive of the Left's view of war and peace. However, Rabbi Shach (their dominate leader for 20 plus years) had an almost pathological hatred of the Kibbutz, and all aspects the "Left" represented. Rav Shach felt that the Likud, led by Menachem Begin, was closer to traditional Judaism than the Left. As such, he supported the Likud, even though he disagreed with their policies. Rabbi Shach has been dead for ten years and things may be changing radically.

Finally, there was a very disappointing result in Bet Shemesh, where the Haredi/Shas candidate won the rerun election. The victory was not so much a victory of the Haredim, but a victory of Shas, who managed to get non-Haredi Sephardic voters to vote for their candidate, against their own interests. This phenomenon has been the secret of Shas and a major conundrum for Israeli society. Shas has always been a strange party – Initially started by the Ashkenazi Rabbi Shach, but managing to leverage Sephardi disenfranchisement into a positive power source for their Haredi party. That trend continues to this day. It is thanks to that channelled resentment that the party pulled off its narrow victory in Bet Shemesh.


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