JERUSALEM (Oct. 8)
Education Minister Shulamit Aloni appears to be in hot water with Israel’s religious parties again. Now the complaint is that she worked on Saturday and ate in non-kosher restaurants during a recent trip to Europe.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had hardly recovered from a crisis Aloni triggered with his Shas coalition partners when the National Religious Party said he should tell her “to stop shaming Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
NRP Knesset members, meeting with the prime minister on Thursday, produced a schedule of Aloni’s meetings in Europe to back up their criticism and urged him to call his education minister to order.
Although NRP is in the opposition, its criticism of the outspoken education minister could make it more difficult for the fervently Orthodox Shas party to remain in the government.
Shas is still upset over a series of controversial remarks Aloni made last month. The party had threatened to quit the coalition after Aloni said Israel’s non-Orthodox schoolchildren were being “force-fed” the biblical account of creation. She also called for the removal of references to God in a memorial prayer for the dead.
Rabin, still smarting from that crisis, lost no time in phoning his education minister about the NRP complaint.
But Aloni, who heads the left-wing Meretz bloc, claims she has been specially targeted by the NRP since taking over the Education Ministry in July. For the better part of the last decade and a half, the ministry was under NRP control.
And Meretz politicians, who agreed their leader may have unnecessarily offended the Orthodox community last month, were furious with the NRP complaint.
The party’s parliamentary whip, Yossi Sarid, said the NRP should desist from spying on Aloni’s work schedule and on the contents of her dinner plate.
Aloni helped calm down the previous crisis after apologizing to the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, for the furor she had caused.
Meretz is anxious to keep intact a government that is committed to reaching a peace settlement with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states. A withdrawal by Shas would keep the government in power, but only with the tacit consent of the Arab parties’ five Knesset members.
Members of the NRP parliamentary faction were meeting with the prime minister to get a briefing on the progress of the peace talks.