Shinui (שינוי) is a Zionist, secular, liberal party in Israel. Shinui is member of the Liberal International. In the election of 2003 it gained 15 out of 120 Knesset seats, making it the third-largest party, after Likud and Labour. The party's leader is Joseph 'Tommy' Lapid. In Hebrew, the word Shinui literally means change.
Religion and State
Despite nearly 30 years of public support of Liberal-Capitalist economic and social policies, it best known platform plank is a call for separation of religion and state within the confines of Zionist ideology. It demands civil marriage (although it has opposed a bill to enact it in March 2004), the operation of public transportation, businesses, theaters, etc. on Saturdays (the Shabbat, Jewish Sabbath), removal of laws concerning selling and importing non-kosher food, drafting of Haredi Jews into the IDF, and a halt to payments to Haredi Yeshiva students.
Because of such demands and the inflammatory tone of its current leadership, it is sometimes accused of being anti-religious or hating the religious, and so some, including many secular people who would otherwise agree with its platform, would not vote for it. The party's official position is that it does not oppose religion but merely seeks to mend the injustices that are being done on its behalf.
Economically, Shinui supports a free market, privatization of public assets, and a lowering of taxes, especially taxes on the middle class. The party has also objected to the introduction of a progressive estate tax.
As for the conflict with the Palestinians, Shinui supports the military tactics undertaken by Ariel Sharon, such as occupying Palestinian cities if necessary 'in response to terrorist attacks' and targeting terrorist leaders (such as Ahmed Yassin). Shinui supports negotiation with moderate Palestinians concerning the final status and a Palestinian state, which would include removal of Israeli settlements and withdrawal from most of the West Bank and Gaza. It asserts that both the Right and Left mislead the public. The Right, by claiming that only force will solve the problem, and the Left, by claiming that there is a Palestinian partner for peace.
Shinui strongly supports the Israeli West Bank barrier and Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 from the Gaza Strip.
Political ethics and corruption
Shinui proclaimed itself as defender of political purity and lawful behavior (in Hebrew: טוהר המידות ושלטון החוק ). It promised to set an example for an uncorrupted party which its members aren't suspected in criminal affairs and financial irregularities. Shinui sees itself as an antithesis of the Mizrahi Haredi party Shas which they describe as "unenlightened," "primitive" and "corrupt".
As such, Lapid asked and received the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs (the last was held formerly by Shas). Shinui also frequently praise the Supreme Court for Justice (BAGATZ ) as protector of the law and moral values.
Shinui was established by Israeli business people and academics in 1974, following the 1973 Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War, which shook the Israeli public. In the 1977 elections it formed the Dash bloc with other Liberal parties and public figures, secured 15 seats in parliament and formed the first non-Labour coalition government. Dash suffered many internal conflicts and quickly dissolved, leaving Shinui, headed by Prof. Amnon Rubinstein to run on its own in the 1981, 1984 and 1988 elections, in which it was down to two seats.
In 1992 it joined two other dovish parties, RATZ (רצ, Movement for Civil Rights and Peace), Mapam (מפ"ם, Israeli Workers Party), to form Meretz, which together won 12 seats and formed a coalition government with Labour. In 1996 the three parties decided to merge into a united Meretz party. The party leader, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, supported the merger, but most party members, under the leadership of Avraham Poraz sought to distance themselves from the social-democratic elements in Meretz, and splintered in 1997. Poraz led the party towards a more ideologically liberal stance on both the economy and secularism.
Towards the 1999 elections, he abdicated in favour of flamboyant TV celebrity Yossef 'Tommy' Lapid, who was known for his fierce rhetoric against religious coercion. In those elections, Shinui went up to 6 seats, while in 2003 it won 15 seats and became the 3rd largest political party in Israel, and Ariel Sharon's senior coalition partner.
Shinui has refused to join any coalition which includes the Haredi parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism).
Shinui has a deep rivalry with Meretz-Yachad party, although they share very similar values in many issues. The rivalry is due to a battle over voters (both parties draw their support from the Ashkenazi-secular middle class) and what are often seen as "ego fights" between Yossef Lapid to Yachad's leaders Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin.
On July, 2004, a tape recording of Shinui senior member and Minister of Infrastructures , Yossef Paritzki, was exposed. In the tape, Paritzki asked a private investigator to frame his Shinui colleague Avraam Poraz in order to end his political career and thus clear the way for Paritzki. The private investigator was paid by the workers' union of Israel's Power Company (IPC), which wanted to prevent a law bill by Poraz denying the IPC workers many priviliges they currently hold.
In response, Shinui publicly denounced and condemned Paritzki and asked Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to fire Paritzki from the cabinet, and called on Paritzki to resign from the Knesset and leave Shinui. Paritzki refused and blamed Shinui and other factors in a plot against him.
On August 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon initiated coalition negotiations after he lost the government majority required to support his disengagement plan. Sharon wished to form a Likud-Labor-Shinui "secular unity" government, but this intention was thwarted by the objections of Likud's members. Sharon then started negotiations with the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties to join the governmemt. However, Shinui vowed in the 2003 elections that it would not sit together in a coalition with these parties.
After significant pressure from Sharon, and to avoid being blamed for thwarting the implementation of the disengagement plan, Lapid retracted his vow and agreed to sit together in the government with UTJ, if they could agree on the government principles. Lapid also hoped that the UTJ would be the side to turn down and scuttle the negotiations. The UTJ, however, raised its demands (e.g. cancelling procedures for passing civil marriage laws and the Tal law ).
On December 1, 2004, Shinui voted against Sharon's proposed 2005 budget, which included subsidies to UTJ projects. In response, Sharon fired the Shinui ministers from the cabinet.
Last updated: 06-01-2005 11:14:41