As the Labor Party reaffirmed its intention to stay out of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government, the chairman of the secular Shinui Party spoke of joining: and for the first time softened his demand that government handouts end for fervently Orthodox men who don't work.
"You have to do it gradually," Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told The Jewish Week. "We don't want to cause unnecessary suffering to large families. But people who are able-bodied men should go and work.
by Debra Nussbaum Cohen |
After years in journalism, interviewing heads of state and religious leaders (and seeing feet of clay on a fair number of both) I don't usually get too jazzed about talking even to the "important" folks. But despite attempts to stay cool and professional, interviewing Col. Ilan Ramon was a plain old thrill.
After weeks of requests through the Johnson Space Center's bureaucracy, one September day a press relations person called with the news that I had a half-hour to interview Colonel Ramon the next day.
Despite his decisive victory Tuesday, Ariel Sharon still finds himself in a vise: caught between his desire not to form a right-wing government that would hamstring his ability to deal with American peace demands and an Israeli public convinced that the time is not ripe to pursue peace.
Couple that with the electorate's crippling blow to the Israeli left and the strong showing of the anti-religious Shinui Party, and this election could pave the way for changes in the country's social fabric.
On election night Israel was no longer the 51st state, but it was New York that became an Israeli district all its own.
American Friends of Likud welcomed Ariel Sharonís re-election with balloons, campaign posters and a victory address from the prime minister, even if the party was on the East Side of Manhattan. Well into Tuesday night, several hundred American Likudniks heard from commentators and politicians long distance via phone and television hookups, as a steady stream of Likud leaders, from Sharon to Benjamin Netanyahu to Ehud Olmert said hello to New York.