Daily Israel Report

MK Porush: Feeling the Pain of the Land of Israel

Dep. Min. Meir Porush (UTJ) opposes the decision to freeze Jewish construction. But UTJ is no closer to leaving the coalition because of it.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 11/30/2009, 10:58 PM / Last Update: 11/30/2009, 11:04 PM

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Knesset Member Rabbi Meir Porush, of the Hareidi-religious United Torah Judaism party, believes his government's decision to freeze Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria is wrong and will only lead to further concessions. But UTJ is no closer to leaving the coalition because of it.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva on Monday, Rabbi Porush said: "We feel the pain of the Land of Israel. We are all in the same boat in that regard. While it can't be said [of the government's decision] 'desolation and destruction' , there is definitely 'great destruction' here."

The MK, who is Deputy Minister of Education, said that he fails to see the logic in the freeze. "If someone were to come along and convince me that if we suspend construction, then everyone will come to understand... the behavior of the Arabs, everyone will begin to say, 'Stop giving in to them'... But that does not happen. Every concession leads to a greater concession."

Potential manipulation
Furthermore, Porush warned of a potential political manipulation of the building freeze on the part of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. There may be no negotiations for nine months, he suggested, at which point Abbas will agree to talks only on condition that the construction freeze continue indefinitely. According to Porush, it is not possible to predict how the Netanyahu administration would react to such a demand. "We may end up in a situation in which, G-d forbid, it will no longer be possible to build in Judea and Samaria," he said. "Where are we headed?"

Asked if, in light of his views, the UTJ is ready to quit the coalition over the construction freeze, Porush replied coyly: "I am always living on borrowed time. Every politician must know that, but especially in the UTJ. At any minute the order could come down [from the party's guiding rabbis], and whatever the order is, we'll do."

According to Porush, this is not the time for discussing coalition crises, in any event. "If we precipitate a crisis and quit, the [far-left] Meretz party will take our place.... The crisis is that we are losing, step by step, more and more parts [of the Land of Israel]."

The UTJ, on principle, only agrees to accept deputy ministerial posts so as not to accept joint ministerial responsibility for government actions that may violate the Torah.

When asked what can be done, if coalition pressure is not currently possible, Porush, who served as Deputy Minister of Housing from 2001-2003, replied: "The things that can be done I can't say over the airwaves."