Monday, February 25, 2008

Shas Plans to Quit Within Months, Some Say It May be Too Late

Hillel Fendel

The Sephardic hareidi-religious Shas party hopes to make some political gains before quitting the government. Shas observers and opponents say: It won't work.

Comment: Never mind what's best for the country-"get mine" first is still in play-disgusting!"The die has been cast," writes political commentator Sophia Ron-Moriah in the Makor Rishon newspaper. "Shas will quit the Olmert government before mid-summmer, or before - depending on the pace of the two or three matters that are important to Shas."

The legislation that is important to Shas includes the expansion of rabbinical court authorities, restrictions on internet access to pornographic sites, and the restoration of previous levels of monthly child allowances.

Shas has been under heavy pressure from the religious and right-wing camps to quit the Olmert government before significant progress is made in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to divide Jerusalem and give away major portions of the Land of Israel.

Olmert Keeping Shas on a Short Leash
Prime Minister Olmert, for his part, is interested in granting gestures to Shas at a slow pace, in order that Shas remain in the government coalition for as long as possible. If the 11 Shas MKs leave the coalition, the government will be left without a majority in the Knesset.

Coalition chairman MK Eli Aflalo (Kadima) has even asked Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to shorten the current winter and upcoming summer sessions, in order to provide fewer opportunities both for the coalition to lose important Knesset votes and for Shas to quit the coalition.

Warning to Shas
Yossi Elituv, a widely-read political commentator who specializes in Shas, recently wrote an open letter to Knesset Members of the party, warning them that Olmert is using them in order to give away Jerusalem."

Olmert has "decided to take advantage of the time that is left until the coming elections," Elituv wrote, "to formulate an unreal and dangerous diplomatic agreement that has major and far-reaching concessions. Jerusalem is being torn to pieces, and all in the merit of the votes of the Shas Knesset Members... You said you would rush out of the government the moment they begin talking about Jerusalem. Really now. What do you think [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni and Abu Ala were talking about on the day that a terrorist blew himself up and murdered a woman in Dimona? Do you think they were exchanging recipes for Hamentaschen [Purim pastries]?! ... You well know that someone has sold Jerusalem at the same time he was selling you contradictory messages. But you are addicted to the false sweetness of the illusion... Jerusalem is not 'about' to be put on the agenda; we're already in another phase: Jerusalem has already been sold out!"

"Olmert is speaking to you in two voices," Elituv continued, "without even clearing his throat in between: On the one hand, he freezes construction in Jerusalem, and with the other he enwraps you with embraces of promises. With one voice, he calls rabbis and swears allegiance to Jerusalem, and with the other voice, he calls his clerks and instructs them to stop every project, to strangle the city, and bring down the hareidi cities. All the neighborhoods that were built past the '67 borders have been arbitrarily and unforgivably frozen. His hand did not tremble when he signed away our normal lives here..."

UTJ's Ravitz
MK Avraham Ravitz, of the rival hareidi-religious party United Torah Judaism, refused to criticize Shas. Speaking to Arutz-7 on Monday, he said only, "I have enough trouble trying to get my own party to do what it should; I should try to advise Shas?" He admitted, however, that he was "doubtful" that Shas would succeed in its apparent two-pronged goal of achieving certain religious-political goals and also being able to quit before the negotiations on Jerusalem reach a critical stage.

"The MKs of Shas are themselves unsure whether they will succeed," Ravitz said. "It's not that Olmert is giving them what they want little by little - he's barely giving them anything at all."

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