Former National Religious Party Knesset Member Yigal Bibi will be the representative of the World Zionist Organization’s newest member, the hareidi-religious Shas party.
The leadership of the WZO approved the inclusion of Shas on Monday in a majority vote, after a first-ever request by a hareidi-religious party to join the Zionist organization. WZO Treasurer Haggai Merom, a former left-leaning Knesset Member of the Labor Party, said, “This is a historic development.”
The man chosen to represent Shas on the WZO board will be Yigal Bibi, a resident of the Judean community of N’vei Daniel in Gush Etzion, a former mayor of Tiberias - and a former leading member and MK of the religious-Zionist National Religious Party (NRP).
“Shas is the new NRP,” Bibi told Arutz-7 on Tuesday. “Shas is now doing what the NRP once did, fighting for both the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel. Minister Yaakov Margi is responsible for Religious Affairs, Interior Minister Eli Yishai [looks out] for the country’s Jewish character, and Housing Minister Ariel Attias is in charge of building the Land. There is therefore no reason why a party like Shas should not be a part of the body that is responsible for settlement and the Jewish National Fund.”
Shas Recognizes Israel's "Centrality"
Merom said that in order to be accepted to the WZO, Shas had made some significant changes in its charter – including adopting the “New Jerusalem Program” that recognizes the foundations of Zionism.
The New Jerusalem Program is a plan that recognizes the centrality of the State of Israel and of its capital Jerusalem in Jewish national life. The program was formulated over a long period by the various members of the WZO, and was formally accepted in 2004.
It was also reported that the World Likud, long a WZO member, and Shas had agreed to become a joint WZO faction that will be “World Likud-Shas.”
Shas and the Army
Asked about the claim that many Shas voters don’t serve in the army, Bibi said, “Party Chairman Eli Yishai was in the army, as were other ministers. I am convinced that in the coming decade, we will see more and more hareidim in the army. The Air Force is already filling up with hareidim, and in general most of those who vote Shas serve in the army.”
Bibi feels that many former NRP voters now support Shas. “Once they closed up the NRP for us [replacing it in late 2008 with the Jewish Home party], this pushed many people to join Shas… I was always loyal to religious-Zionism, but once I saw that many NRP voters were voting for the Likud, I preferred that their votes would go to a religious party…”
Yigal Bibi served in the Knesset from 1988 until 2003, during which time he also served for various terms as Deputy Environment Minister and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister.