June 21, 2004
Labor chairman declares religious MKs can join other existing parties. NRP MK Yahalom: Peres' remarks come in light of Labor party's desire to join the government.
By: Arik Bender
Religious and ultra-orthodox MKs are furious after Labor Party Chairman, MK Shimon Peres, said that "there is no room for religious parties in the State of Israel".
Peres made the remarks during a speech delivered at a Jewish Agency assembly in Jerusalem. According to Peres, there is a basic difference between politics and religious belief. "Faith is absolute and non-compromising whereas politics is premised on compromise. Therefore there is room for religious people in existing parties but there is no room for religious parties".
In response to Peres' comments, MK Shaul Yahalom (NRP) said: "Peres' declaration is understandable in light of his desire to join the government. The NRP constitutes an obstacle to this desire. The Israeli public chuckles when it hears those words, as it recalls the secular revolution promised by the Labor party under the leadership and Barak and Peres".
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai issued the following response: "In this time of war for the Jewish identity only bodies such as the ultra-orthodox parties can eradicate this negative phenomenon". Yishai also said that he regrets that a party aspiring to constitute an alternative to the ruling Likud is increasingly featuring anti-democratic voices reminiscent of dark periods in history.
Fellow Shas MK, Meshulam Nahari, said: "I have an answer for Shimon Peres. In the State of Israel everyone should be religious. If everyone is religious there will be no room for remarks such as those made by Peres".
Despite the furious reactions among some religious parliamentarians, it is notable that Peres' remarks are similar to positions articulated by religious figures in the past, including former Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri.
Since he has been released from prison, Deri has repeatedly questioned the need for ultra-orthodox parties. He noted that the ultra-orthodox may be able to obtain more by throwing their support behind the large parties or by joining those parties.
© Copyright 2004 Maariv International