Shalom from Tel Aviv!
We went to bed at about 1:00 A.M. thinking we had one prime minister. We woke up in the morning to find we had another. Until 96% of the vote was counted, incumbent Prime Minister Shimon Peres was declared the winner of the Israeli elections. Celebrations at his Labor party headquarters were ecstatic, while gloom hung over Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu's gathering of Likud party supporters.
At about 2:00 A.M., Netanyahu inched past Peres, to the disbelief of the national and international press. To further baffle the experts, no one knew quite what to expect as this was the first-ever Israeli election where voters were given the opportunity to cast two ballets--one for the next prime minister and another for their favorite party.
Even though Netanyahu won by less than one percent, he actually received 55% of the Jewish vote--a margin that in U.S. politics is considered a landslide victory. On the other hand, 95% of Israeli Arabs voted for Peres. Peres lost the election by less than 30,000 votes! The results are even more astounding considering the fact that 150,000 blank ballots were cast--a protest vote against both candidates, but especially the incumbent Prime Minister Peres.
FOUR SHELLS COST SHIMON PERES THE ELECTION
It is estimated that at least 31,000 Arabs cast blank ballots. (Jerusalem Post, June 7, 1996.) TV news said the figure was closer to 100,000. The Arabs were angry with Peres over the 100 Lebanese citizens killed a few weeks ago when Israeli fire hit a U.N. station in Lebanon. Israeli soldiers were attempting to silence Hizbullah terrorists who were shooting Katyusha rockets
down upon Israeli towns. The terrorists had deliberately chosen a U.N. lookout station as their cover while they shelled northern Galilee. Israel did not know that as they returned fire, the U.N. had filled one if its buildings--little more than a hut--with civilians. Those four Israeli shells that hit that position probably lost the election for Peres.
ISRAEL'S PARTY SYSTEM TURNED UPSIDE DOW
Disbelief over the upset turned to greater astonishment, as the nation struggled to absorb the meaning of the elections in regard to the parties. In short, the two large parties, headed by the candidates for prime minister, shrunk to an extent foreseen by nobody. Voters, who could now choose a prime minister and any party they wanted, moved in droves to the religious parties.
This election with so many surprises has left the public reeling. Many from the left and from the right are alarmed at the tremendous gains the Orthodox and extreme Orthodox (the latter called Ha-ree-DEEM in Hebrew) have made in this election. The religious parties have a combined mandate of 23 seats--formidable power, because these parties' agenda is focused and narrow. Their objectives are to channel government funds into the Orthodox community, and to create legislation that will limit religious freedom to their interpretation and practices.
"Secular and non-Orthodox religious circles are very frightened that the religious parties' newfound strength in the Knesset will be translated into legislation curtailing religious freedom and pluralism. . . We fear the new Knesset will introduce an extremism in religious issues." (Ibid., June 3, 1996)
A PARTY FOR THE INGATHERING OF ALL JEWS
However, another extraordinary event occurred in this election to somewhat offset the demands of the Orthodox. "Perhaps the greatest surprise," says the Jerusalem Post, "in a Knesset election crammed with the unexpected was the showing of [the Immigration Party]."
Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in a Soviet prison because he wanted to immigrate to Israel, is consumed with the vision of Israel as being the place for the ingathering of all Jewish exiles throughout the world. However, since he immigrated to Israel in 1986, he has watched a bureaucratic jungle, fed by a strangulating socialistic economy, waste much potential of 500,000 former Soviet immigrants. This year he decided to do something about it.
Sharansky feels that the government has so concentrated its energies on the peace process that the great opportunity to encourage the immigration of world Jewry is slipping through its fingers. He is also calling for basic religious freedoms to make it easier for the non-Jewish spouses and families that are accompanying Jewish immigrants; for more small, affordable rental housing; for more government help in scientific research, free market policies and other similar economic and social reforms. His main target, therefore, is in domestic policy, and not foreign policy.
A PLACE WHERE JEWS WOULD WANT TO COME
"No one knows better than Sharansky that economic growth in recent years has almost nothing to do with the peace process and almost everything to do with the flood of brains, talent, and energy from the former Soviet Union. . . This is why one of the main clauses in [Sharansky's party] agenda is a call to free Israel's economy. And this is why the party can make an immense contribution to the country's welfare. . .
"Sharansky has said that a truly free, open market economy can change the climate of the country so dramatically that Jews will come to Israel not because they have to, but because they want to. . .And if Israel wants to attract millions from Russia and the West, it will have to offer the kind of living standards and career opportunities which can compete with those of the Western democracies." (Ibid, June 3, 1996)
Along with another new party, The Third Way, Sharansky and his seven seats can serve as a strong counterbalance to the demands of the religious parties.
Below are the mandates of the political parties with which Netanyahu is now negotiating. He must have a coalition of a minimum of 61 seats to form a government.
FINAL VOTE FOR PRIME MINISTER
Binyamin Netanyahu 1,501,023 (50.49%) won by less than 30,000 votes
Shimon Peres 1,471,566 (49.51%)
(TOTAL OF 120 PARLIAMENTARY SEATS)
LEFT (tend to be secular, offer RIGHT (tend to be traditional,
Arabs land for peace) see land as birthright)
Labor (Peres' party) 34 seats Likud (Netanyahu's party) 32 seats
Meretz (left of Labor) 9 seats Moledet (right of Likud) 2 seats
United Arab (Islamic) 4 seats National Religious (Orthodox) 9 seats
Hadash (Arab Communist) 5 seats Shas (Ultra-Orthodox)1 10 seats
Torah (Ultra Orthodox)2 4 seats
If you noticed, Netanyahu with all his party's natural rightist allies does not have the necessary 61 seats to form a government. For that reason, he will have to negotiate with the two new centrist parties. Their pivotal votes will give them considerable clout.
Immigrants Party (headed by the famous Russian former prisoner of Zion) 7 seats
The Third Way (main agenda--not to give up the Golan Heights) 4 seats
WHAT CAUSED ISRAELIS TO VOTE FOR ORTHODOX?
Surveys show that Israel is continuing to grow more secular, says Dr. Almog, sociologist at the Jezreel Valley Community College. The younger generation is becoming less Orthodox, and the parents worry. He says the erosion of values has brought Israel into a twilight era. The new "religion", whatever that may be, is still taking shape. (Ibid., June 7, 1996.)
Shimon Deshen, Tel Aviv University anthropologist, said, "Shas' religious platform appeals to tens of thousands of people who, although not Torah observant themselves, have a deep respect, a fear, for rabbis. These are people for whom there is deep belief in God, in heaven, and a deep respect for Jewish heritage, even if they do not perform all the commandments."
By objective standards, the Shas ultra-Orthodox leaders are not very moral. The head of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri--the same former Minister of Interior who has caused so much trouble for Messianic Jewish immigrants--has been on trial for corruption for five years. Another Shas leader was convicted and sent to jail. Pilfering from the public purse, though, hasn't seemed to be one of the loss of values that distresses the religious sector.
Aryeh Deri does know how to appeal to this constituency. He came up with a campaign scheme which, according to a national Religious Party official, was pandering to the superstitions of the less educated sectors of the populace. Deri's party passed out amulets by the tens of thousands, with the likeness of 106 year old Rabbi Kaduri, a mystic in kabbala (Jewish mysticism), who had blessed the medallions. When the Elections Committee called a halt to these activities, Shas distributed in their place forms on which one could write a petition to the aged mystic. (Ibid.)
Prof. Moshe Halamish of Bar Ilan University says that "practical kabbala can be described as a form of magic in which the practitioner in some way acquires the power to determine the course of events. An amulet, he says, is based upon the magic of the written word."
"Some people believe that the amulets, which include the holy names of angels, have the power to bring them luck, or fend off evil. Others say they are the Jewish answer to the rabbit's foot. The NRP charged that "most of Shas' new support came from people who voted for the party only because they received the medallion and were afraid to vote against Shas, lest they incur the evil eye." (Ibid.)
THE RABBIS TALKED ABOUT VALUES
There's an additional reason, though, for the success of the ultra-Orthodox. Rabbis were flown around the country to speak at Shas rallies. While Peres talked about peace in a New Middle East, they talked about Judaism and values and the loss of the youth to materialism and Goa [drug town in India that Israeli youth frequent.] This message struck a chord in communities where more and more of the older generation, steeped in tradition, feel that their children have gone astray, and are looking for ways to stem the tide.
Rabbi Kaduri, little known until this election, received Netanyahu at his home the day before the elections, and blessed the Likud leader, calling him the next prime minister. The Jerusalem Post goes on to say, "In an election as close as this one, it is quite possible that it was this one act which swung the balance for Netanyahu." (Ibid.) Religious Jews listen to their Rabbis.
PRAYING FOR THE NEW PRIME MINISTER
The new Prime Minister now has three great challenges: (1) To find the best possible road to negotiate with the Arabs concerning the peace process (withstanding world opinion and prevailing against terrorism.) (2) To fight for human rights and freedom of conscience in Israel (withstanding Orthodox religious pressure.) (3) To encourage free enterprise in the business sector (withstanding socialistic, bureaucratic vested-interest domains.)
Indeed, as close as the election was, we who are believers in Yeshua the Messiah know that God rules and overrules, and that He will ultimately bring victory. We also believe that He gives us insight in order that we can pray God's will to be done in Israel--so that the Gospel can go forth throughout the Land, and that Israel will retrieve her spiritual inheritance, that is, her relationship with God through forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Then as surely as the Word of God stands. Israel will receive back her physical inheritance that God has sworn to give her (Psa. 105:8-10).
THE ISRAELI MESSIANIC LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE was a gift from the Father to the body of leaders here in theland. About two hundred and twenty leaders from all parts of the nation attended. Pastor Jack Hayford ministered in grace, wisdom and power to a group that could not have been more diverse. Charismatics, evangelicals, conservatives, sabras (native born Israelis), Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia, Russia and the West, Israeli Arabs and heads of Christian organizations that serve the nation, made up this group of leaders.
These hardworking, overworked and often weary leaders were refreshed, encouraged and blessed by the ministry of Pastor Jack and marvelously gifted singer Marty Goetz. New relationships were formed and friendships deepened among these shepherds of the flock. All of us realize that as we love one another, the Spirit of God will be released to work through us and
among our people. This conference contributed considerably toward that goal. Each of you who has shared in this ministry, will surely receive your reward for all that was accomplished in this conference.
The Body of Messiah is becoming bolder and stronger in Israel. Street evangelism is taking place in many cities involving many groups and congregations. We are going to need added supernatural strength, as we come head on into the face of the powers of darkness who are watching us advance into their territory.
We ourselves will be concentrating on evangelism outreach and youth ministry this summer. We are developing music tapes with Arni and Yonit Klein, and literature for outreach. Since these must be high quality and culturally adaptable (of course in Hebrew) to be effective in Israel, the cost will be many thousands of dollars. We are asking God to send us more laborers--such as skilled office workers and musicians--those who are called of God and can speak Hebrew!
We greatly need your financial help, your moral support, your prayer support. Only as we go in the power of the Spirit, will we accomplish anything. Our confidence is in the Lord. The God of Israel will give us victory over our enemies. All Israel shall be saved!
For the lost sheep of Israel,
Ari & Shira Sorko- Ram
1 Shas represents the Sephardic community (Oriental Jews).
2. United Torah Judaism represents the Ashkenazi community (European Jews). Also the National Religious Party (mainstream Orthodoxy) is principally made up of Ashkenazi Jews.