Tragically, Deri’s “great revolution” will continue even if he can’t avoid court

Absolutely unashamed, bribery convict and tax offender Aryeh Deri has reacted to the Supreme Court’s unsurprising finding that his return to ministerial office is “extremely unreasonable” by portraying the ruling as an unfairly motivated attack on the “great revolution” from his Shas party. has cherished. And by promising to evade, by any means necessary, the court’s attempt to protect Israel and its treasury from its ministries.

Hours after Wednesday’s ruling that he must resign immediately or be sacked, and after hosting Benjamin Netanyahu for a solidarity and strategy session that also provided a collective mockery of defiance against the judges, the prime minister is determined to castrate, declared Deri: “We will continue the great revolution. We will continue to represent the poorer 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 by all means.”

“If they close the door on us, we’ll come in through the window,” he vowed with his revolutionary fervor. “If they close the window, with God’s help we will break through the ceiling.”

Empowered by Netanyahu, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox leadership in the Sephardic Shas and its Ashkenazi counterpart United Torah Judaism have indeed long been engaged in a revolution. It is not the catastrophic planned judicial reform 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 agreements Shas and UTJ made in last month’s coalition deals with Netanyahu’s Likud are meant to accelerate the damage. If implemented, they are guaranteed to deepen the education and employment crisis of the Haredi community, condemn much of the country’s fastest-growing segment of the population to further snowball poverty, and ultimately threaten the sustainability of the state.

Abuse of their constituency

In their coalition agreements, Shas and UTJ negotiated vastly expanded funding for their non-public school networks. Not only are the finances and operations of such schools often devoid of effective oversight, resulting in the potential for misuse of funds, but the additional funding must be allocated without a mandatory requirement to teach a core curriculum, including math, science, and English.

Similarly, the parties have increased funding for full-time yeshiva studies for Haredi men, and pledged to expand the already broad exemption that some of the population has obtained from the military and any other national service.

Combined, these priorities – presented by Deri and UTJ leader Yitzhak Goldknopf as major achievements – mean that more of their constituents are being denied the basic education they need to become an effective and fulfilled part of the workforce capable of to take care of their family. , and discourage them from even trying.

Instead – which is exactly what the Shas and UTJ strategy aims for – many of them will become increasingly dependent on state-funded social services and on their political leaders using the coalition to maintain that funding. However, it should be emphasized that Shas generally has a clearer Zionist outlook than UTJ, and its constituents are much more likely than UTJ’s to serve and enter the workforce.

The leader of United Torah Judaism, 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 the Israeli economy of large segments of the population receiving a substandard education and being discouraged from working than Netanyahu. Last month, in some of the most spectacularly self-conscious remarks possible, Netanyahu detailed in an English-language interview how, as finance minister 20 years ago, he enacted sweeping reforms to the national social security system. which he said was widely abused in many of the Arab and Haredi communities.

“To put the ‘fat man’, the public sector, on a diet, I had to push back Israel’s lavish social security system, which encouraged people to live on benefits and not go out to work,” said the prime minister. . At the risk of becoming unpopular, he continued: “I cut child support, which was extraordinary in Israel—they went up with each subsequent child; it led to demographic and economic collapse. And the same happened in other sectors, the ultra-Orthodox community and so on. They didn’t work. They simply had a lot of children for whom the private sector had to pay.”

Barely three weeks after that interview, and only a week after he tweeted about it himself, Netanyahu’s Likud signed his coalition agreements with the Haredi parties, which provided for a return to the same counterproductive processes he had recognized and addressed 20 years ago.

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

National damage

Not only is it deeply damaging to much of the Haredi community to be condemned to inferior education, exclusion from national service, diminished prospects for productive employment and a disincentive to attempt to work, but it is also enormously damaging to the rest of Israel.

When your fastest-growing demographic sector is under-educated, your country gradually, inevitably, deteriorates from a successful to a under-performing one. (The Haredi sector, which currently makes up about 12.6% of the population, would grow twice as fast as the total population. According to Dan Ben-David of the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, a striking 23, 7% of 0-4 are Haredi.)

When large parts of that sector do not share national service responsibilities, they withdraw from healthy integration with other Israelis, and this causes resentment among those who take on the pressure. While the rest of Israel must also increasingly subsidize them (20% of the working population already pays 92% of income taxes, while the bottom 50% of the population according to Ben-David), the resentment and sense of injustice can only grow. with potentially drastic consequences. These may include a growing brain drain, deepening national divisions, a not-too-distant inability to sustain a strong economy, and ultimately, by extension, a diminished capacity to ensure Israel’s defense.

The high birth rate, low level of education, widespread avoidance of conscription and relatively low labor force participation in much of the Haredi community are not new trends and their implications are not a new concern. But the coalition’s announced agenda will exacerbate them rather than address them.

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

Supreme Court judges ruled that Deri should not hold ministerial office, both for his financial recidivism and for misleading the Jerusalem court when he said last year, while negotiating a non-custodial sentence for his tax conviction, that he would have no further transactions would have more with matters of “public economic interest, as he will be kept at a distance from the public sphere.”

In fact, to the terrible detriment of Deri’s own constituents and the rest of the state, the Shas leader’s “great revolution” will continue – whether or not he can find a window to go through, or a ceiling to to stock up, to court and ministerial designation.

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