Will Israel have an Arab Prime Minister before it has a Haredi Prime Minister?

November 14, 2010 by Raffe Gold
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A hospital and a parking lot. Two innocuous structures that are at the very heart of a modern society yet in Israel they are icons of the deep chasm between two major elements of that society. The Haredim, anti-Zionist Jews, so-called because of their ultra-religious “anxiety” over the coming of the messiah, and the secular in Israel are often at loggerheads over the direction of the country with one claiming to be the spiritual heart of the Jewish State whilst the other declares that it is the national protector. A schism between the two is currently threatening the soul of the country and the two sides are adamantly opposed to each other having a majority. This begs the question; will Israel have an Arab Prime Minister before it has one who is Haredi?

Raffe Gold

Prior to the creation of the State of Israel a number of different Haredi groups opposed the creation of a Jewish State primarily because the Zionist movement was a secular one and actively tried to limit the religious influences of the different groups. In 1948 David Ben-Gurion, in an effort to placate the Haredi population in Israel, struck a careful balance in order to unite the Jewish people for the inevitable attack by the numerically superior Arab armies. Ben-Gurion wanted to maintain the status-quo of religious jurisdiction; he gave the Chief Rabbinate the authority over marriage, divorce and the Jewish character of the State. Religious groups were exempted from serving in the army and many who chose to study in a Yeshiva were given a stipend. As the religious population was relatively few at the time it was a small price to pay for the essential unity of the Jewish people.

Today, with the Haredi population growing in both number and influence, the secular members of society are fearful that the greatest threat may come not from the Arab armies or the Iranian bomb but from the rapidly increasing Haredi demography. In a poll conducted in June, 56% of the secular Israelis polled believed that “they would fear for Israel’s existence” if Israel became a Hared-majority state. Many of those believed that the benefits granted to the Haredi should be withdrawn whilst a much smaller number said that they would leave if Israel became a Haredi state. Many secular Israelis find it discriminatory that Haredim are allowed to spend their days studying, on government welfare, and drain the resources of the State without contributing.

With the deep divisions between the two societies what will happen when the rapidly-rising Haredi birth rate begins to tip the scales from a predominately secular Israel to an overtly ultra-Orthodox Israel? Simply take a look at the conflict in Jerusalem and you will have a picture of what the future could be for Israel. Last year the Municipal City Council in Jerusalem opened a parking lot that would service cars throughout the week. The Haredi community took to the streets in violent protest that lasted for weeks. Earlier this year a hospital in Ashkelon was discovered to be built on the site of several graves. The Haredi community demanded that the Emergency Room be built several hundred meters away from the main hospital for fear that removing the graves would anger God. The secular community, along with the Prime Minister, disagreed and simply moved the graves, causing violent protests by the Haredim.

With the schism evident between the two sections of society how will the secular Jews be able to coexist with the Haredi community? What will happen when the Haredim become a force to be reckoned with in the Knesset? In the current Knesset,  Shas, and United Torah Judaism hold 16 seats representing the Ultra Orthodox community in the 120-seat Knesset. Whilst that does not sound like much, it represents a significant part of the Netanyahu government. Who will secular Israelis vote for when a Haredi Prime Minister becomes a near inevitability? It’s a radical thought, but try this for size….what about an Arab?

Arab parties have been involved in the Knesset since the creation of the State and Arabs serve on the Supreme Court and in the army. Whilst Arabs are not required to do military service, and many reject it outright, some have chosen to and proudly serve their country such as Amos Yarkoni. Today Ahmad Tibi serves as the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, the head of the Border Police is an Arab and the director of the Jewish National Fund is an Arab. There are currently more Arab parties in the Knesset than there are Haredi. Many secular Israelis would have far more in common with an Arab-Israeli than a Haredi Jew. It is these common goals that could cause a secular Tel Avivian to vote for an Arab over that of Haredi Jerusalemite.

This is not to say that this could happen or that it will happen. There is a strong push to integrate the Haredi community into mainstream Israeli society. Recently more and more Haredim are joining the army and going to work. Here in Australia, and throughout the world, members of the Haredi community have found that they are able to both work and devote their lives to God. It is time for the Haredim to strike that delicate balance or the rift in Israel will grow wider and wider. Israel has seen enough blood shed because of our enemies; let us not see it drawn by our family.

Raffe Gold is a political science graduate who will soon emigrate to live in Israel. He can be reached at twitter.com/raffeg


3 Responses to “Will Israel have an Arab Prime Minister before it has a Haredi Prime Minister?”
  1. mountain man says:

    full of inaccuracies and downright stupid, Jim? Really? Having been a keen and close observer of the Israeli political scene for the past fifty years, having lived in the country, having been scared witless by the growth in power of these parasites who are sucking the life-blood out of Israel, demanding everything and giving nothing in return, I think that Raffe’s article is pinpoint accurate and timely. His conclusions are frightening, and rather than flinging meaningless insults, surely it’s better to tell him where he’s inaccurate. I didn’t detect any inaccuracies. Perhaps you’d like to enlighten us all

  2. Raffe says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for the comment. What are the inaccuracies within the article?

  3. Jim says:

    What a terrible article, full of inaccuracies, anti-Haredi bias and downright stupidity.

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