Israel's Religious Parties, Opposition Denounce Barak's 'Secular Revolution'
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's announcement of a "secular revolution" for the country was denounced by religious parties as well as the opposition, reported the Jerusalem Post.
Barak had announced that the "revolution" includes a constitution, national service for all and educational reform.
Israel's Shas party leader Eli Yishai denounced Barak's call, saying it was "a call to divide the nation and for a cultural war," said the newspaper.
Barak's plan would eliminate the religious affairs ministry, require haredi yeshiva students (students of religious institutes) to learn citizenship, English, and mathematics, enact a constitution, allow civil marriages, and require national service by army-age yeshiva students and Israeli Arabs, said the paper.
The opposition immediately termed the package a desperate pre-election ploy, while religious parties called it an affront.
"He simply wants to turn the state of Israel into a non-Jewish country," United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni told the paper.
Barak denied he would work against religious interests in formulating a constitution and defended the move as a "must" if Israel is to "integrate with the most progressive societies in the world."
He warned that, "otherwise, we will have a society divided into ghettos," added the paper
Political commentators said that Barak's proposal had once and for all put an end to any possible partnership with Shas and the other religious parties.
But a senior government source said that Barak has not given up on Shas, the Jerusalem Post said.
"Barak's search for a Knesset majority includes a plan for alternating blocs, including Shas, that could be called upon as the situation requires," the source said.
The source added that the plan has been in the works for at least a number of months.
"Originally, Barak was dependent upon Shas, so the plan was put on hold. Following the unsuccessful bid to reinstate the party after it left the coalition last month, Barak now believes he has a freer hand in going ahead with the secular revolution."
However, he has not given up on Shas, according to the source, and if he can gain its support for a permanent-status agreement with the Palestinians, he is willing to pay the price of a delay in instituting civil reforms, said the paper - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)