For a Shas politico to consider teaming up with religious Zionists would have been inconceivable not long ago.
First, both haredi parties shun involvement in larger political issues like, say, the peace process; they exist primarily to keep haredi men out of the army, secular subjects out of haredi schools and government money flowing to haredi institutions. Thus, after late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the 1993 Oslo Accord, for instance, Shas offered no real opinion about the most important diplomatic question in decades; it abstained on the vote. But it did care about remaining in the coalition, with all the financial benefits that entailed, so it kept Rabin’s government from falling over the issue. Similarly, UTJ actually voted against Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, yet in exchange for 30 million shekels for its yeshivas, it personally ensured the pullout would happen by saving Sharon’s government from falling over the issue. On its priority list, the disengagement was simply much less important than money for its institutions.
Consequently, the fact that a Yishai-Ariel union could even be contemplated has a significance far beyond the personal; it represents another step on the road to fuller haredi integration. And that’s a bit of election news we should all be happy about.
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