Although tensions between Shas and the Likud continue to simmer, party officials sought to downplay the friction on Tuesday.

A report in Ma’ariv claimed that Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias of Shas said in internal discussions that unless the party retains the Housing portfolio, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not be able to form a government after the upcoming election.

The report said Attias claimed Shas was heading towards 14 or 15 seats in the next Knesset, and Netanyahu would need them to form a coalition.

“If Shas isn’t in the coalition then Netanyahu won’t be prime minister,” Ma’ariv reported the minister as saying.

Last week, Netanyahu stated that he intended to give the Housing portfolio to Likud- Beytenu, although he did not rule out bringing Shas into the coalition.

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A Shas source denied the report, however. He said Attias has made “technical” comments with regard to current polling figures, in that Netanyahu will need Shas in the next coalition if he wants to form a right-leaning government.

The source conceded that the Construction and Housing Ministry is important for Shas, but said the party was not conditioning entry into the coalition upon control of any specific ministry.

“We want the Ministry of Housing; it’s not a condition, but it’s a priority,” he said, adding that the more Knesset seats Shas gets in the elections, the greater leverage the party will have to claim its desired portfolios.

Low income levels and the desire to live in haredi enclaves means that affordable housing for the ultra-Orthodox sector is hard to come by and a critical issue for the community.

The importance of the issue for Shas was underlined by the movement’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Saturday night, when he criticized the threats to the party’s control over the Construction and Housing Ministry.

The party official also denied claims that Shas had worked only in the interests of the haredi sector, and pointed to a policy pushed through by Attias to provide first-time property buyers in the periphery with a NIS 100,000 grant as an example of the minister’s work for all sectors.

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennet, who wants the Construction and Housing Ministry under the control of his party, accused Shas last week of working only for the haredi community regarding the issue of housing.

The Shas official also downplayed the reported political tensions between the Likud and Shas, saying the Likud attacks came from a desire to distance themselves publicly from the haredi parties, and that there was every likelihood they would be in the next coalition.

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