Nov 20, 2008

No more holding your nose and voting Gimmel

There is an earthquake rumbling at UTJ headquarters. The infighting is ripping them apart, threatening to destroy them. They have not stopped the vicious fighting since the elections, and it could have a detrimental effect on the upcoming national elections, if they don't get their act together quickly.

Everybody else right now hates the Gerrer Chassidim, because of what they did to Porush. Evryone hates Porush and his buddies. Many are disenfranchised with Degel. And everyone is cursing the other out.

It has gotten to the point that top Haredi journalist Dudu Zilbershlag has even said that if ti continues to go this way, UTJ might not even pass the minimum threshold in the upcoming elections. People will just not vote Gimmel if the fighting continues.

I think that is an exaggeration. They have a strong base of people who believe in UTJ as being the only option for a haredi ashkenazy person. But they will take a big hit. Unless they get it together and make some sort of working peace between the various groups.

The real problem is that the leadership is divorced from the people. that was ok until recently. The people were led by the sheperds, and the sheep followed without saying boo. Nobody was really interested, and those that were, were not rebellious enough to revolt. They would famously "vote Gimmel while holding my nose".

The guys running the party are mostly older, have been there a long time, and think that the young flock of today are the same as the flock of 20 or 30 years ago. They have no selection process for bringing in new young leadership - people more connected with todays Gimmel voters. There are no primaries - just each MK or person brings in the guy who worked for him, who he knows, his nephew or son or some other relative, and sticks them somewhere down the list.

MK Ravitz is the stndard for this problem. He gave an interview in which he declared that he is staying in his position. He was asked about the phenomenon of TOV in which former natural voters of UTJ are disenfranchised and have formed their own party and perhaps it will spread. His answer, while very calm (in contrast with the reaction of many others in Degel) was basically that they should stay in Degel, and if he had time to convince them of that he would be able to.

Basically, he is saying everyone should just trust me that we are doing the right thing and nobody else has the right to say otherwise. Just trust me.

The flock are tired of that. They want new leadership.

UTJ will survive the fighting. They have strong enough base of voters to ensure that. But they will suffer a serious decline if they do not get their act together and open themselves up to those who are disenfranchised with them. Those people are going to stop "holding their nose and vote UTJ", and will start voting for other parties, whether it be Shas as an alternative, or new parties, just join the large secular parties.


  1. Where is the Rabbinic leadership?

    In all due respect to Rav Shteinman, his visit to prop up a political party and mayoral candidate was far from a Kiddush HaShem.

    All of the Bitul Torah of talmidei yeshivos for UTJ election acticity was far from a Kiddush HaShem.

    The present infighting is far from a Kiddush HaShem.

    Once again...WHERE are the Rabbonim?

    Please stop hiding behind your invisible fences and for once take a stand against this chilul HaShem.

  2. About bloody time!

    I know it would be too much to ask, but one can dream of a situation where UTJ, Shas and NRP disband themselves as political parties and reconsitute themselves as factions within the Likud.

    By doing so, they would:
    1) Ensure that the Likud becomes entrenched as Israel's ruling party;
    2) Ensure that the Likud has a definitive interest in preserving and strengthening Jewish values;
    3) Take some responsibility for running the country, instead of just clamoring for a piece of the budget pie;
    4) Start relating to the rest of non-Charedi/Ashkenazi Israel as partners and colleagues, rather than...

    Oh, wake up already, Shaul! :)

  3. Gimmel was able to run on one list both in Bet Shemesh and Yerushalayim despite the fact that different factions supported different mayoral candidates, and in spite the bad blood they'll run as one slot.
    The Chareidi lifestyle vis a vis army service and kollel is dependent on Shas and Gimmel representation in the Knesset. That meants that anyone in the community that doesn't want a radical change regarding these matters has to vote Shas or Gimmel.
    Shas doesn't try do get the Ashkenazi vote, moreover even if they did, someone is bound to remember (or be reminded) that Shas' poilitcos are much more corrupt than Gimmel's and voting for Shas may involved holding one's nose as well.
    The Daas Torah/Mosdos peer presure combo will continue to give Gimmel incremental gains. They'l have seven seats in the nest Knesset.

  4. that is correct. But many are saying that this time they will vote shas, despite the corruption. It is a "haredi" party (even though it is really more traditional), and it is the only viable alternative to UTJ.

    The more liberal are considering voting either for the new mafdal party, or even for a secular party. But the whole conversation is indicative of a trend that people are upset at the way things are running at UTJ. It might force change, and if it doesn't, UTJ might take a hit.

  5. Shaul,
    Unless the the Knesset switches to regional representation that's not gonna happen. The Likud is terrified that Manhigut Yehudit will scare away centrist voters, and Bibi doesn't seem willing to let Effy Eitam run either. Likud will not trump "Eretz Yisrael HaShleima" (anyomore anyway) massive amoounts of money for Yeshivas, or major welfare allotments, which are the things that the three religious parties stand for. Why should they?

  6. Eli,
    Bibi can't prevent Effi Eitam from joining the Likud; anyone is allowed to join. What Bibi refused to do was allow special dispensation for Eitam to run for Knesset, which he would need, since he's not a Likudnik in good standing (i.e. he hasn't been a memeber for 16 months). After 16 months of paying dues, even Yossi Beilin would be allowed to vote and run for Knesset in the Likud. The "all-star" team (Begin, Meridor, Yaalon et al) were given specific permission to run for knesset seats, because Bibi thinks they will be good for the Likud; the opposite is true of Eitam.

    BUT - if everyone had to join the Likud now, then in 16 months, the voting membership of the Likud would be significantly stronger, Jewishly speaking, the Likud's knesset list would be a powerful array of pro-Torah, pro-Jewish, pro-Eretz Yisrael people - and that's who would be running the country! Just imagine!

    Problem is, people are in rosh katan mode - they form single-issue sectoral parties, whose main goal in life is to be kingmakers and extort as much money out of the budget for their own causes as they can possibly negotiate. All about me, me, and my own sectoral interests.

    In a hypothetical world, where everyone had rosh gadol, they would realize that the best way to make sure that your interests are taken care of is to be a lobby within the ruling party, not an external party that the ruling party would far rather be without, and can hope to be attached to a coalition because it's got a couple of miserable MKs and a price tag.

  7. Rafi,
    The fringe that would think about voting for the New Mafdal or any other non_haredi party probably abandoned Gimmel in light of the disengagement anyway.

  8. Shaul,

    Why do you think that Likud is the natural place for UTJ voters?

    1. Belz is left-wing politically and in favor of giving up land.

    2. The only member of UTJ who is strongly right wing is Porush.

    3. As Duker wrote, if the charedi sector went over to the secular parties, that would be the end of the charedi welfare state. Since the various menahelei mosdot, askanim, and ideologues want to preserve the charedi community as a poor, dependent class, no one has a reason to move over.

    4. The Belzer Rav believes that UTJ should be dismantled and that that people should vote for secular parties.

  9. Anon 13:43 - I am in favor of the two-party system, as in the US (though I'm not American myself). I'm not going to argue that point here; if you want evidence that the 2-party system is best, just take a look at the world's most successful and stable democracies - USA, UK, France, Canada etc. - you'll see that the common thread is that they all have two major parties that dominate the political landscape. They do have smaller parties, but to all intents and purposes, the government is always in the hands of one or the other. If it works for them, it should work for us, too.

    If the Belzers would be more naturally at home in Labor, then let them form a faction within Labor, like Meimad did for a while. But my feeling is that if you had a two-party system in Israel, Labor would represent the "Israelis", while Likud would represent the "Jews", as Shimon Peres put it when he lost to Netanyahu many years ago. (He was referring to himself as an "Israeli" who had lost to the "Jew" Netanyahu.) I don't think Belz would feel at home in the "Israeli" camp...


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