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Gafni: Hareidi Parties, Labor Both Want Socialist Israel

Hareidi MK says socialism has changed, tells Labor MK ‘You could be in my party.’
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/28/2013, 9:27 PM

MK Moshe Gafni
MK Moshe Gafni
Israel news photo: Flash 90

While hareidi-religious parties and the Israeli left may appear to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they are actually not as different as they appear, MK Moshe Gafni (Yahadut Hatorah) said Thursday.

Gafni responded to MK Merav Michaeli of Labor, who gave her first speech in Knesset recently.

“When MK Merav Michaeli suggested I give her my blessing, I did a calculation – we represent two near-opposites… What I represent and what Merav Michaeli represents, there’s an ideological chasm between us,” he said.

However, he continued, as he listened to Michaeli’s speech he realized, “There are few things I disagree with her about.”

“If I closed my eyes and took out a bit here, a bit there, no more, I would say: You belong in Degel Hatorah,” he added, referring to a hareidi faction that makes up part of Yahadut Hatorah.

One thing the two agree on is gender equality, he said. “A man and woman go to the same workplace with the same skills and the same abilities, and the man earns more,” he lamented.

Michaeli’s grandfather was “an avowed socialist,” he noted. “What is socialism these days? The Labor party’s battle for social welfare – for housing, for equal burden between a CEO of a bank and a family man… I agree with that. I argued with the CEO of a big bank in Israel because I said that he could support an entire poor neighborhood on his salary.”

“The state should have been a welfare state and a socialist state,” he declared. “I agree with that, one hundred percent.”

Gafni said he is praying for the Labor party to be included in the coalition, “Because we need someone who will talk about true ‘equality in the burden’… People who are sensitive to the poorer classes, who are sensitive to the true middle class, not the upper middle class, the middle class that needs someone to worry about it.”

Gafni derided other parties’ focus on the issue of hareidi-religious military service. “They’re constantly debating. They meet in the morning and they meet in the evening, they met yesterday and they will meet tomorrow, and they will talk about something that will never be. That’s what they talk about all the time, about ‘equal burden,’” he said.

MK Michaeli has controversial views on gender issues and military service, and her inclusion on the Labor list has added fuel to critics' complaints that the current list is on the extreme left. She opposes attempts to require hareidi men to enlist in the IDF, arguing that doing so would give more power to rabbis and would be detrimental to female IDF soldiers.