JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Criticism of Premier Menachem Begin by the Belzer rebbe has increased speculation here that the Premier may be in trouble with at least part of his ultra-Orthodox constituency.
Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, 35-year-old leader of the Hasidic sect that originated in Belz, Galicio, has suggested that Begin’s acerbic manner toward foreign statesmen with whom he disagrees is partly responsible for arousing dormant anti-Semitism in many European countries.
The rebbe, addressing a large gathering of his followers here last week, referred to the “tongue-lashings” Begin administered to such leaders as former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany and former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France because he didn’t like their Middle East policies. Anti-Semitic prejudice, though never eliminated, has tended to stir beneath the surface of society in recent years, the rebbe said. Now it is re-emerging and Begin may be partly responsible, he added.
His remarks, conveyed to the media by aides, seemed to reflect Rokeach’s well known view that the Agudat Israel party should consider leaving Begin’s coalition government. It was expressed in recent days in the Belzer newspaper, Hamachane Hacharedi, which reported that the Aguda Council of Sages was contemplating an alternative alliance, meaning with a Labored government.
The report said Orthodox Jews in Europe have complained that Israel’s recent policies created a wave of anti-Semitism which made life and business difficult for them.
The Belzer rebbe told his followers that the Aguda’s participation in Begin’s coalition “should not be seen as an endorsement of Begin’s policies of war and provocation.” Political observers note that the Belzer Hasidim are not strongly represented in Aguda policy-making forums. But the young rebbe is considered a dynamic leader and his influence cannot be discounted, the observers say.