National security adviser Yaakov Amidror met with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef last Friday regarding the party’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, government officials confirmed on Monday.
The meeting was first reported on the haredi website Kikar Hashabbat and was confirmed by coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin. Amidror met with Yosef on Friday at the Shas leader’s home in the haredi neighborhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem.
The meeting, which lasted approximately an hour and was also reportedly attended by Shas chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, was part of an ongoing dialogue the Prime Minister’s Office has been conducting with the Shas leader, Elkin said.
“I know that the prime minister is conducting talks with Shas leaders, and certainly with the rabbi,” Elkin told Kikar Hashabbat on Monday. “If and when the day comes he will present the rabbi with all the facts and information,” the MK added, referring to a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Yishai is a member of the inner security cabinet of nine ministers, an informal body, which nevertheless carries considerable weight in the government’s decision- making process. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convenes the cabinet to deliberate on crucial issues of national importance.
Until now, Yishai has been said to be opposed to a unilateral strike. Since Yosef determines all major policy positions for Shas, Yishai’s opposition was in all likelihood dictated by the elderly rabbi’s personal stance.
The security cabinet is thought to be split evenly on whether to attack, with four in favor, including Netanyahu and four against, including Yishai. Newly appointed Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter is believed to be undecided.
The meeting between Yosef and Amidror therefore was most likely aimed at gaining Shas’s support for a strike.
“I won’t go into detail regarding these talks,” Elkin said. “They are ongoing and there are excellent relations between the prime minister and the Shas leaders. It is a sensitive dialogue between the prime minister and the spiritual leader of Shas that remains behind closed doors.”
He added that the talks would remain private – something that is not guaranteed with other parties, he quipped.
On Saturday night, during his weekly Torah lesson, Yosef briefly mentioned as an aside the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
“A second Haman, also from Persia, intends to do evil to us,” he said in reference to a Persian enemy of the Jewish people recorded in the Biblical book of Esther. “We need to stand in prayer with all our hearts before God,” he continued.
“We are in danger, all of us are in danger. We have no one to rely on apart from our Father in heaven. [We must] pray with deep devotion.”
As national security adviser and head of the National Security Council, Amidror helps advise the prime minister and government regarding issues of national security.
Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.