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Tragically, Deri’s ‘great revolution’ will continue even if he can’t outrun the court

Unashamedly, corruption convict and tax offender Aryeh Deri has responded to the High Court’s unsurprising ruling that his return to the post of minister is ‘unreasonable in the extreme’ by portraying the decision as a dishonestly motivated attack on the “great revolution” of his Shas party. has favorized. And by promising, by all means, to escape the court’s effort to protect Israel, and its coffers, from its care.

Hours after Wednesday decision that he must immediately resign or be fired, and after hosting Benjamin Netanyahu for a solidarity and strategy session that was also a common sardonic message of defiance to the judges the prime minister is bent on castrating, Deri said: “ We will continue the great revolution. We will continue to represent the poorest echelons, we will continue to represent the world of Torah, we will continue to protect the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, by all means and all possibilities.

“When they close the door to us, we will enter through the window,” he said. sworn with its revolutionary fervor. “When they close the window, we will break the ceiling, with God’s help.”

Bolstered by Netanyahu, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox leaders within the Sephardic Shas and its Ashkenazi counterpart United Torah Judaism have indeed long been engaged in a revolution. This is not the catastrophic planned judicial overhaul I am talking about here, but an educational, social and economic revolution with devastating consequences for many of their own constituents and for Israel.

And the deals Shas and UTJ secured in last month’s coalition deals with Netanyahu’s Likud are designed to accelerate the damage. If implemented, indeed, they are guaranteed to deepen the education and work crisis of the haredi community, dooming much of the country’s fastest growing segment of the population to a ball of hope. snows further poverty and ultimately threatening the very sustainability of the state.

Abusing their constituency

In their coalition agreements, Shas and UTJ negotiated massively increased funding for their non-public school networks. Not only are the finances and operations of these schools often lacking in effective oversight, with consequent potential for misuse of funds, but the additional funding should be allocated without a forced obligation to teach a core curriculum including math, science and English.

Likewise, the parties secured increased funding for full-time yeshiva study for Haredi men, and a commitment to expand the already broad exemption this sector of the population has secured from the military and everything else. other national service.

Combined, these priorities — touted by Deri and UTJ leader Yitzhak Goldknopf as significant achievements — mean more of their constituents are being denied the basic education they need to become an effective and fulfilling part of society. labor able to support their families. , and deter them from even trying to do so.

Instead – and this is precisely what the Shas and UTJ strategy aims for – many of them will become increasingly dependent on state-funded welfare and their political leaders using the effect of leverage the coalition to maintain this social assistance funding. Shas, it should be emphasized, nevertheless, generally has a more clearly Zionist outlook than the UTJ, and its voters are much more likely than those of the UTJ to do their military service and enter the labor market. .

United Torah Judaism leader Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

No one better recognizes the dangers to Israel’s economy from large swaths of the population receiving poor education and discouraged from working than Netanyahu. Just last month, in some of the most dramatic and oblivious comments imaginable, Netanyahu explained with precision in an English language interview how, as finance minister 20 years ago, he introduced sweeping reforms to the national welfare system, which he said had been widely abused in most Arab and haredi communities.

“In order to put the ‘fat man’, the public sector, on a diet, I had to cut Israel’s lavish welfare system, which encouraged people to live on unemployment and not go out and work,” he said. said the prime minister. specified. At the risk of becoming unpopular, he continues: “I reduced the child benefit, which in Israel was extraordinary – it increased with each successive child; it was leading to demographic and economic collapse. And the same thing was happening in other sectors, the ultra-Orthodox community, etc. They didn’t work. They just had a lot of kids that the private sector had to pay for.

Barely three weeks after that interview, and barely a week after he himself tweeted about it, Netanyahu’s Likud signed its coalition agreements with the Haredi parties, providing for a return to the same counterproductive processes as he recognized and tackled 20 years ago.

Ultra-Orthodox men celebrate the Simchat Torah holiday in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood on October 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

National prejudice

Not only is it deeply damaging to much of the haredi community to be relegated to inferior education, exclusion from national service, diminished prospects for productive employment and a deterrent from trying to work, but it is also extremely damaging to the rest of Israel.

When your fastest growing demographic receives a substandard education, your country inevitably deteriorates gradually from a prosperous country to a substandard country. (Currently representing some 12.6% of the population, the haredi sector would be growth twice as fast as the total population. In effect, according to to Dan Ben-David of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, 23.7% of Israelis between the ages of 0 and 4 are Haredi.)

When large sections of this sector do not share the responsibilities of national service, they withdraw from healthy integration with other Israelis, and this breeds resentment among those under pressure. While the rest of Israel is also required to subsidize them more and more (20% of the working population already pays 92% of income tax, while the poorest 50% of the population are too poor to pay any income tax, according to Ben-David), resentment and a sense of injustice can only deepen, with potentially dramatic repercussions. These may include a growing brain drain, growing national disunity, a not too remote inability to sustain a strong economy, and ultimately, by extension, a diminished ability to defend Israel.

The high birth rate, low level of education, widespread avoidance of national service, and relatively low labor force participation in much of the haredi community are not new trends, and their implications are not new sources of concern. But the coalition’s stated agenda will exacerbate them rather than attack them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves Aryeh Deri’s house in Jerusalem, after visiting the Shas leader hours after a High Court ruling disqualifying Deri from the ministerial post, January 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

High Court judges ruled that Deri should not hold a cabinet post both because of his financial recidivism and for misleading a Jerusalem magistrates’ court when he said while negotiating a non-custodial sentence phrasing for his tax conviction last year, that he would no longer deal with matters of “public economic interest since he will be removed from the public sphere”.

In fact, to the terrible detriment of Deri’s own voters and the state at large, the Shas leader’s “great revolution” will continue – whether or not he can find a window to jump through, or a ceiling to smash, in order to overrun the court and order it ministerially.

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