Feb 6, 2008

a new player coming to town... in Bet Shemesh politics

Israeli politics are confusing. Especially for the American oleh it is tough to get things straight.

In America it is very straightforward. 2 big parties. Somebody from each running for president, or mayor on the local level. Aside from that there are the legislatures in the Senate and Congress who run for slots. And local politics include governor and State Senate. It is pretty straightforward.

In Israel it is a parliamentary system. Meaning you vote for a party rather than for a person. The party is led by the party's candidate for mayor/prime minister. The party that gets the most votes, generally, then has to cobble together a coalition of other parties willing to support them and work with them based on similarity of policies.

On the national level, for example, that means Kadima had the most votes, so Ehud Olmert, the head of Kadima, gets the Prime Minister seat if he can put together a coalition to support him. So he cobbles one together with parties such as Labor, pensioners, Shas, etc., all of whom feel they can work with Olmert to advance their positions and have their concerns addressed.

On a local level, for example in bet Shemesh, it means Likud had the most votes in the municipal elections. That means Dani Vaknin, head of bet Shemesh Likud, has to put together his coalition for the municipality. He cobbles one together with Shas, UTJ, Mafdal, etc.. whomever feels they can work with Vaknin and the Likud and advance their interests and address their concerns.

That means if you vote for a small party, you are not really voting for mayor or for Prime Minister. Rather you are voting for whatever special interests that small party represents. that small party will generally try to work with whichever party wins the top slot, because the access to power and money is what keeps the small parties alive.

So if you vote Shas, UTJ, Pensioners, Mafdal, Green Party, etc... (whatever party you might vote for), you are voting for those issues represented and pushed by that party.

In general, the ashkenazy yeshivish religious (Haredi and partial Haredi) community traditionally votes, for the most part but with exception, for UTJ.

The problem comes when a party no longer pushes the agenda for the constituents voting for them. There is not really any way for the voters to keep the party in line. For example, traditional supporters of UTJ have nobody else to vote for, for the most part. If UTJ does not work hard enough to protect the interests of their constituents, who will the locals transfer teh votes to? Shas? Likud? Mafdal? Most people will not because those parties do not represent the interests of the ashkenazy yeshivish frum community. A few might, but most will not.

Most will continue to vote for UTJ, for example, because they have no other option.

There are a lot of people who are upset with UTJ. They did phenomenally well in the last municipal elections winning I think 3 seats in City Hall. Yet (some of) the representatives of UTJ have spent a lot of their time helping non-constituents instead of constituents.
They have been fighting for land allotments for the kannoim who do not even vote, instead of working to protect the interests and needs of the general Haredi community. They get involved in fights over tznius signs that are led by kannoim. In the meantime schools and shuls are suffering from the lack of attention being paid to their needs.
I am not familiar with all the issues, but there is growing dissatisfaction with the UTJ representatives. The problem is that voters have nobody else to vote for.

Rumor has it (really it is more than a rumor, but no official statement has yet been put out) that a new local party is being formed. It is a Haredi party, similar to UTJ, but without the national connections. UTJ is bound by political concerns that are not just local but also national. They are restricted to what the heads of UTJ on the national level want them to do or to ignore. This new party, called TOV, is a Haredi party but only on the local level, not the national level.

TOV is being formed as an alternative to UTJ. They say they have the support of local Rabbonim and are working to getting more on board with their plans. They want to be a presence and a force so that the Haredi voter will not be held hostage by UTJ and the Haredi voter will have his interests protected.

Will they be successful? It is too early to tell. They have not even yet, officially, announced their formation or platform. They have big plans to becoming an alternative to UTJ and it sounds promising.. At the least, they can force UTJ to be more receptive and concerned with the actual voters. At the best they can make it in and become the voice of the community, along with forcing UTJ to adjust..


  1. which rabbonim are behind this? which askanim are going to be running on the list?

  2. I don't have that info yet. I have heard a few names, but nothing official. They have not officially announced anything yet - they think it is still too early and an announcement now would still be premature... If I say names, I have no way of confirming. and the names have not been authorized for public knowledge at this point, so I cannot do it..

  3. why don't they jut call a spade a spade and say they want to make a party without being obligated and under the control of the local UTJ Rabbonim namely Rabbi Goldstein and Rabbi Perlstein.
    This reminds me of Poalei Agudas Yisrael who didn't get together with Aguda (many years ago) because they didn't want to listen to the Gedolim. (today's gedolim also say to vote for UTJ and people who feel they know better don't want to be subject to their opinions)

  4. oh come on. you post one story about how the UTJ representatives are helping the kannoim and all of a sudden "they are spending too much time on it" one day in four years is too much time?
    also there is no school legally eligible for a government building that didn't have a building or caravan this year.
    at the end of the summer when the chaluka was made all the schools came out satisfied.
    (maybe bais yaakov in mishkanos is an exception but I hardly think that the TOV guys are protesting that.)
    I tend to think that comment #3 is more on the ball.

  5. There is 1 big difference between mayoral politics and national politics. The mayor is directly elected by the voters and serves his term no matter what happens with teh city council.

  6. Does this relate to the meeting that Aharon Unger called a few weeks ago?

  7. This seems to be a bet shemesh issue, not a RBS issue. Rav perlstien and rav goldstein are only in rbs and are small players compared to the kiryah

  8. rafi,

    i don't understand. what happens when the moetzes pronounces that the gedolim have stated one must vote for utj?

    i liked this post. living in america we don't realize that there are local politics in israel as well. i don't think i could name one local politician other than lupiosnky (and even that i can't remember exactly)

  9. good question LOZ. nobody knows what will happen. In Beitar TOV ran against the wishes of UTJ. They won spots (I do not remember if they won one or two seats).
    TOV ib BS is being modeled after the success in Betar.

    Will they win? don't know. They have not even announced anything officially yet. They are working on getting rabbinic support and building a base of support among the residents. They have not made public their platform yet or their concerns. It is way too early to tell...

  10. if the gedolim say to vote for UTJ the tovniks will just say "The Gedolim were tricked" or "the gedolim only said so because the gabboim didn't let us in" or "the gedolim don't really know what goes on in local politics" or "godol ploni told me privately that we should do it" or they might say one of their favorite "they only said to vote for UTJ because they are afraid of Rabbi Perlstein"
    after one or all of the above excuses they will continue to do whatever they please.

  11. Tov in Beitar got only one seat; they missed a second by a few hundred votes.

    RBS Commuter


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