JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
National religious Party leader Yosef Burg lashed out against ultra-Orthodox Jews Sunday night, accusing them of “creating a rift in our people.” Burg, who is Minister of Religious Affairs, charged that the ultra-Orthodox “are deepening hatred and are themselves responsible for extremism in the non-religious camp.”
His keynote address at the ceremonial opening of the NRP convention here, contained probably the strongest indictment by an Orthodox political leader of the zealotry that has resulted in growing strife between the religious and secular elements in Israeli society.
He strongly condemned the proposal by Interior Minister Yitzhak Peretz of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party to have the word “convert” stamped on the identity cards of converts to Judaism in Israel. “It is an abominable idea,” he said. “We are living in a period of physical yerida (the emigration of Jews from Israel) and social and human yerida from sanctified values. This is a period of laxity in national discipline.”
CONVENTION IS DEEPLY DIVIDED
The NRP convention, which moved to Tel Aviv for its business sessions Monday, is deeply divided. Its Knesset representation was reduced to four from six in the last elections and its various factions are feuding bitterly. One group obtained a temporary court injunction barring “substantive” decisions by the convention pending a judicial hearing. The group charges irregularities in the election of delegates.
MK Avner Sciaki, a contender for party leadership, demanded that the convention elect a new leader at once instead of waiting for a second session next fall.
Burg, who is 75 and has sat in virtually every Cabinet since the State was founded, has long been expected to step down. But he has yet to submit a formal letter of resignation.
He told the convention opening that he was confident a national consensus supports the present unity coalition government. But he expressed doubt that “the political situation would allow a government like this one to continue to exist.”
President Chaim Herzog, who attended the ceremonial opening, called on the NRP to put aside its divisions. “The role of your movement should be to lead the community to tolerance and moderation,” he said. “We are continually troubled by political storms and never have time to consider the essential question: What image are we trying to attain for the country and what will we bequeath to future generations.”