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Naomi Ragen
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The Ghost of Hannah Mendes Jephte's Daughter Sotah (A Woman Under Suspicion) The Sacrifice of Tamar

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An Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr. Barak,

As one of those who voted Mr. Netanyahu into office, and has now voted him out, I would like to have a word with you before you make your coalition decisions. I accepted your invitation to join you in building a different future for Israel for one reason: Because I couldn’t accept Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition partners - Shas and the haredim. So before you listen to Haim Ramon and Yossi Beilin’s cynical, corrupt arguments of why it is not only acceptable but also desirable for you to get into bed with Aryeh Deri and Menachem Porush the morning after, let me explain why it would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions.

Despite the cynical political wisdom that goes that Shas’s 400,000 voters can’t be ignored, let me explain why they must be. This election was not only about the peace process; it was about the vision of a society we want to build. The changes we want to make. If a party composed of members who view democracy and the rule of law as obstacles in their path is allowed to become one of the foundation stones of your new government, then everything you try to build will collapse in time from the rot within.

If you take Shas in after one of the the most shockingly corrupt campaigns in Israel’ s history; if you give them political power and public funding to pay off all their campaign promises; if you give legitimacy to their vision of religion as incantations, grave-visiting and magic amulets; if you continue to support their school system which teaches these values to thousands of vulnerable children, then in the next election, we can expect to see a million Shas voters, and 32 Knesset members.

The only way to prevent the growth of the dangerous policies Shas represents, is to cut off their food supply, i.e. the public funding, which, let us not forget, comes from the pockets of the other three and a half million voters in this country that didn’t vote for Shas.

And let’s not kid ourselves. It doesn’t matter if Deri resigns or not. Shas without Deri has the same platform. And many other leaders just like him to take his place.

The Haredim also have had their say. They had their demonstration against the High Court of Justice. They flexed their power muscles in squeezing money from Netanyahu’s government. To let them join in with Shas in becoming another building block in your coalition, is to seal our country’s fate on the road to Khomenism.

And if that happens, the peace process won’t matter. Nothing will.

Nothing will.

So, Mr. Barak, I’ve given you my vote, the chance to become one of Israel’s greatest leaders. It’s an opportunity, a moment in our country’s history which can seal our fate for generations to come. You have a social mandate, not just a political mandate.

Make the right decision. Don’t be a politician. Be a leader.



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Copyright 1999 Naomi Ragen
Last modified: June 08, 1999