Shas Co-chairman Eli Yishai says he doesn’t need portfolios or benefits, only no decisions “having to do with the Torah world” are made that we can’t live with.
Lapid: “It is very possible that I will be the opposition leader. If that happens, we will make sure to topple the coalition within a year and a half,”
Co-chairman of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, Eli Yishai, confirmed reports on Monday that he had asked certain rabbis to pressure Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett not to cooperate with Yesh Atid (There is a future) Chairman Lapid on the issue of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment to the military.
Lapid, whose main campaign promise was to ensure that every citizen of Israel serves in the military or in a comparable national service program, including the haredim who have, until now, enjoyed a blanket exemption, has been rumored to have made a pact with Bennett in efforts to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exclude the haredi parties from his coalition. Habayit Hayehudi no. 2 Uri Ariel, who heads the party’s negotiations team, said however that “we are in contact with Lapid. At the same time we are also in contact with the haredi factions.”
If Lapid thinks that Netanyahu will include him as a senior partner in a coalition without the haredim, so that he can one day quit, [topple the coalition] and instigate elections, he is mistaken.
Yishai told Army Radio on Monday that he had approached rabbis who represent the national-religious population, which Bennett also represents, asking them “to do everything in their power so that no decision having to do with the world of the Torah is made without our consent.”
“They are welcome to enter the coalition even without Shas,” Yishai said. “I have never asked any man or any party to save Shas. I am perfectly willing to support the coalition from the outside.”
“I am willing to relinquish all the portfolios and the benefits and to stay in the opposition, as long as no decisions are made that we can’t live with. The military doesn’t want the haredim, and such a coalition won’t last more than a year or two,” Yishai added.
Meanwhile, the first official day of coalition negotiations began on Sunday with all the parties toughening their respective stances and launching attacks on the other parties. In light of the tough coalition demands presented by Lapid’s representatives as well as by Shas, the general assessment among Likud-Beytenu officials is that the negotiations will not conclude until the latest possible date, making full use of the 28 days allotted plus the 14-day extension allowable by law.
A high-ranking Likud-Beytenu official said on Sunday that the only person who will determine whether Lapid is in or out of the coalition is Lapid himself. Netanyahu, he said, is not willing to accept any demand to preclude any party from the coalition.
“Lapid presented crazy demands,” he said. “Only time will tell whether they are a part of negotiation tactic or actual demands. If the demands are real, the likelihood that Lapid will be in the coalition is close to nil.”
“If Lapid thinks that Netanyahu will include him as a senior partner in a coalition without the haredim, so that he can one day quit, [topple the coalition] and instigate elections, he is mistaken,” the official said. “The haredim have proven to be stable and reliable, and no one has any intention of leaving the country’s fate in Lapid’s hands.”
In closed meetings, Lapid actually toughened his demands on Sunday, saying that “we can’t be intimidated with sitting in the opposition. It is very possible that I will be the opposition leader. If that happens, we will make sure to topple the coalition within a year and a half, after Netanyahu imposes severe austerity measures on the middle class, and then I will replace him.”
The Likud negotiations team met with the representatives of three parties on Sunday — Yesh Atid, Habayit Hayehudi and Shas. The negotiations were set to continue on Monday with United Torah Judaism, Hatnuah and Kadima.
The general assessment within Likud-Beytenu is that Hatnuah, headed by Tzipi Livni, and Kadima, headed by Shaul Mofaz, are very close to signing coalition deals. A coalition comprising Likud-Beytenu, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Hatnuah and Kadima would amount to a majority of 69 MKs. However, if Yesh Atid were to replace Hatnuah and Kadima, the coalition would have a wide majority of 80 MKs.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu held a separate meeting on Sunday. At the start of the meeting, party chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, said that “in light of the election results, the issue of [reforming] the system of governance is becoming more and more pressing. The large amount of small parties brings us to a dead end, without any change.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=7280