Photo: Eli Elgarat
Poraz. 'No alternative'
Photo: Eli Elgarat
Photo: Eli Elgarat
Ratzabi. 'Accomplishments erased'
Photo: Eli Elgarat
Photo: Tal Solomon
Polishook-Bloch. 'The last straw'
Photo: Tal Solomon

Will ER dispute revive anti-religious party?

Public criticism over decision to relocate Ashkelon hospital's emergency room because of ancient graves may have laid foundations for new secular movement

The decision to relocate the fortified emergency room at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon at a cost of NIS 135 million (about $36 million) because of ancient graves discovered in the area has sparked a wave of protest against Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties and may have laid the foundations for the establishment of a new secular movement.


Former members of the Shinui party have called for its reestablishment, claiming that had it been part of the government, the waste of money would have been prevented. But is there any room for a secular party after Shinui's collapse?


Former Knesset Member Avraham Poraz has no doubt that "the Labor Party is not doing its job and Kadima has no influence and is torn inside." According to Poraz, "Apart from writing in the newspaper, the seculars have no alternative. Most of the seculars are law-abiders and they will not block the bulldozers."


The former lawmaker slammed the prime minister, saying that Benjamin Netanyahu "is afraid that the graves will burry him and is giving in to all of (Deputy Health Minister Yakov) Litzman's caprices."


The hospital and area of graves (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)


Another former Shinui MK, Ehud Ratzabi, agrees with Poraz but explains that the party needed does not have to be defined as secular.


"The situation emphasizes the need for a liberal-public party, a party which will be able to prevent such deals – not just on the part of the haredim, but also deals coming from the right side and left side of the government. The vote in favor of moving the hospital building and throwing away NIS 135 million would not have passed only with the haredim. All of Shinui's achievements have been erased in order to guard that person's coalition only as prime minister."


'Haredim have a lot of chutzpah'

Meli Polishook-Bloch, another former Shinui MK, says that the cabinet decision "was the last straw as far as seculars are concerned. The haredim have crossed the line, and the public's responses show that it has had enough."


According to Polishook-Bloch, "A slightly different Shinui will definitely materialize soon. In the next rally in Tel Aviv I plan to call on the members to establish a new movement."


She added that the new movement would be joined by several Kadima MKs, "as will anyone else who is a sane Zionist, secular or religious, who cares about Israel."


Poraz himself believes that the secular party will rise before the next elections, due to the public rage.


"The haredim have a lot of 'chutzpah' – and it only keeps growing. After the trauma experiences by the haredi parties, when Shinui won 15 Knesset seats and left them out of the government, they calmed down, but they have slowly gotten used to having no one stop them. Not just because of the graves, but also because of the parking lots, the education, the fact that anyone seen eating chametz during Passover will be fined – such a party will be established."


Former MK Ilan Leibovitch agrees with Poraz. He says he has been meeting with citizens protesting haredi coercion in their cities. "The people who are doing this have a lot of charisma and are active on the ground. The rest is happening because, unfortunately, no one in the government is raising the flag. Shinui was founded based on this same fury."


פרסום ראשון: 03.23.10, 01:08
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