Shas, UTJ Working to Forge Powerful Negotiating Bloc


yishai-prush3The heads of Yahadus HaTorah-United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas are meeting today to consolidate their positions and to conduct coalition negotiations together as a unified chareidi entity. As a unified bloc, these two parties comprise 16 seats, which is one seat more than Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisroel Beiteinu.The parties anticipate that their unity will tempt the next prime minister to invite them into his or her coalition government.

Shas chairman Eli Yishai told the Yediot Acharonot, “There is coordination and cooperation with UTJ. We are working together to become partners in a stable government on a basis of joint fundamentals that also existed in the past.” Yishai added that two parties would coordinate their positions regarding the future for the status quo regarding religious issues. In addition, Yishai said he feels that both his party and UTJ have similar goals, which include budgetary requests for Jewish education and preserving the Jewish characteristics of the State of Israel.

Yishai stated that he has also spoken with Ichud Leumi-National Union, which he said had also expressed interest in joining their potentially powerful bloc. Yishai said he intends to meet with National Union leader Yaakov ‘Ketzaleh’ Katz later today. The two are set to discuss means of assuring that the government will remain nationalistic and will include the religious parties.

Along the same lines, both Katz and Yishai met yesterday with Rabbi Meir Porush of UTJ. The three religious parties hope that as a united front with 20 mandates they will have more bargaining power.

“We are speaking with the party heads, and investigating all possibilities. We will have an unpredictable and weak Knesset unless it will succeed in forming a very wide-ranging coalition. It is important that the government will be stable and have a good coalition that could overcome crisis. At the end of the day, one needs to manage the country – there is a high rate of unemployment and important issues, such as [kidnapped IDF soldier] Gilad Shalit,” Yishai said.

The Shas leader stated that he has no problem sitting together with UTJ in the government coalition, as they have done in the past. He emphasized that his party platform of socioeconomic reform must not be tampered with, in order for Shas to join the government.

Regarding the Shas party’s joining in a coalition with the secular Yisroel Beiteinu, which has stated its intent to change the status quo, Yishai stated, “We already sat with him in the past. Every party has its conditions, and we would need to form working teams. Our convictions are clear. However, whoever is empowered to form the government will need to manage this.” Yishai added, “The government that will be formed needs to be based on the nationalistic camp. The nation chose the right and one should honor the nation’s desire.”

Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad of National Union told Kol Yisroel radio today that the National Union has not yet decided whom it will recommend to President Peres to form the next government. He also explained that the party’s red line in joining the governing coalition would be whether it supports a Palestinian Authority state.

According to Eldad, the National Union will recommend Likud leader Binyomin Netanyahu to Peres only if he will not form a center-left wing government. Eldad recommends that Netanyahu first turn to the nationalistic parties to form a majority government, and only afterwards approach Kadima to enter the government.

 {Yair Israel/INN}