Premier Golda Meir’s shaky coalition government, arduously put together only a few weeks ago, is facing a new crisis–the possible defection of the internally divided National Religious Party. NRP ministers who joined the government in defiance of a prohibition by the Chief Rabbinate Council, are reported to be wavering in face of severe pressure from the party’s “young guard,” the religious settlers and the Orthodox rabbinical establishment.
One of them, Welfare Minister Michael Hazani, has been telling friends that he is seriously considering leaving the government because the pressure is becoming too much for him to bear. He promised a final decision next Monday when the NRP Central Committee is scheduled to meet. A major lobbying effort is underway to get the 501 members to reverse the party leadership’s decision to join the Meir government.
The NRP was ordered by the Chief Rabbinate to boycott the coalition as long as the government refuses to amend the Law of Return in a manner that would invalidate conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis. The three NRP ministers–Hazani, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, and Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Rafael–have come under savage criticism from Orthodox elements for their “disobedience.”
Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the NRP’s spiritual mentor, delivered a blistering attack on “those three persons who call themselves ministers” at a press conference today. He called them “liars,” “desecraters of God” and “criminals” and demanded the “destruction of the present government.” Rabbi Kook said it wasn’t the Who is a Jew issue that angered him to much as the willingness of the NRP ministers to join a minority government that has to rely on votes of Arab Knesseters.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.