Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was criticized by both opposition and coalition members Wednesday morning following a Yedioth Ahronoth report that he is considering ending the tensions
between ultra-Orthodox and religious residents in Beit Shemesh by dividing the city in half.
According to the report, Netanyahu said in closed forums that he was in favor of any solution which would prevent violence, including the possibility of dividing the city into one city for haredim and another city for secular and religious Jews. The newspaper said Netanyahu had already discussed the issue with Likud
Knesset Member Yohanan Plesner (Kadima)
slammed the prime minister, saying that "instead of dealing with the problem, Netanyahu is – as usual – only dealing with the symptom.
"I expected the prime minister to say he plans to halt the distribution of 25,000 new apartments planned in the city exclusively for haredim, and instead he raises this unfeasible idea to divide the city.
"While tens of thousands of young couple still believe they are about to be presented with new housing solutions, Netanyahu is making it clear that his government will continue building for its haredi partners."
Thousands protest in Beit Shemesh, Tuesday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich said the idea to divide Beit Shemesh into two cities was dangerous and stemmed from the government's weakness and inability to enforce rules and democratic norms in the State of Israel.
"According to this idea, Israel could be divided into a number of separate countries according to people's faith and worldview. A responsible government's mission is to bring Israel's diverse populations together and subject them to a uniting set of rules and values.
"Such a separation on behalf of the government is like raising a white flag over the idea of the Zionist vision."
MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima) said the idea brought back memories from Netanyahu's handling of a different problem exactly one year ago.
"The prime minister's proposal to solve the radicalization problem in Beit Shemesh by dividing the city in half is similar to the Supertanker solutions in the Carmel fire disaster or the import of doctors from India to solve the medical residents' crisis.
"The prime minister is sticking with his way of hiding behind populist suggestions. Instead of showing responsibility and uniting the people he only deepens the rift."
MK Miri Regev (Likud) said that "we mustn't give up on Beit Shemesh," but added that "there are usually problems in every mixed area, especially when there are extremists trying to impose their lifestyle on the rest.
"We may not have a choice but to allot one area in Beit Shemesh to the haredi population, while allowing the secular and traditional population to live in peace in the rest of the city."
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that the desire to prevent violence in any way was understandable, but that violent groups should not be rewarded.
"Moreover, we cannot create isolate islands and we must not let haredi live in a separate entity within the State of Israel."
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism)
said he could not believe Netanyahu actually made such a proposal.
"He's a smart person. I can't believe that instead of dealing with problems and handling delinquency properly, the problems will be avoided and the country will be divided according to categories.
"Why don't we just divide the entire country according to veterans and immigrants, religious and non-religious, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Arabs and Jews?"
According to Gafni, the solution is having law enforcement authorities handle the violence.
"I don't want those 'thugs' to be referred to as haredim, just like I wouldn't want people to say all seculars are violent if a violent secular group is arrested. The police must handle it, and the division solution is delusional."