Aloni, Again, Needles Rabin, As Opponents Urge Her Ouster

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is expected to face another Orthodox-led assault on his controversial education minister, Shulamit Aloni, when the Knesset returns from its spring recess later this month.

But this time, Rabin and Labor Party leaders will find it harder than ever to rally the coalition’s support for the outspoken Aloni, head of the left-wing Meretz bloc.

Aloni, who has a history of stirring outrage in her public speeches and media interviews, has even alienated her own supporters by her latest remark, in which she criticized Rabin for reciting the Shema Yisrael prayer at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemoration in Warsaw last week.

The prime minister, in a rare gesture expressing both emotion and religious feeling, had donned a black yarmulka at the end of his War-saw speech and recited the Shema, noting that it was the last words on the lips of so many of the Holocaust victims.

Aloni, who accompanied Rabin at the head of the Israeli delegation to the events in Poland marking the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, said later she found Rabin’s recitation of the Shema in that context an implication of submission or resignation to the fate of the Holocaust victims.

Even commentators usually sympathetic to Aloni have excoriated her for these comments.

The Orthodox United Torah Judaism Front immediately submitted to the Knesset a motion of no confidence in the government, designed both to chasten Aloni and to embarrass Rabin’s Orthodox coalition partner, the Sephardic Shas party.

Shas has frequently found itself under attack by its own constituency over Aloni’s controversial statements.

United Torah’s Menachem Porush said Aloni’s latest utterance meant there was nothing in the Jewish national heritage that Aloni was prepared to leave sacred and unsullied.

Shas, for its part, has resumed its effort to persuade Rabin to remove Aloni from the education portfolio — which is also United Torah’s price for joining.

Shas issued a statement warmly praising Rabin for reciting the Shema.

Even on the secular side of the political spectrum, there has been scant support for Aloni.

Orit Shohat, a columnist for the daily Ha’aretz newspaper, appeared to voice the widespread view on the political left when she wrote Sunday that “Aloni is causing irreversible damage to the secularist cause and image.”

“The left-wing world outlook has never looked more superficial,” Shohat said, calling Aloni the “greatest flop” of the 1992 political turnabout in Israel.

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