ehud barak 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Opposition leader and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu met Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas and asked him not to join a coalition led by newly elected Kadima chairman Tzipi Livni, on Sunday.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said at the end of the meeting that the rabbi had heard Netanyahu's outline for the coalition and added that any decision on the matter will be made only after deliberations in the Council of Torah Sages.
"Shas will not give up on two main anchors - a real solution to the social and economic crises, which would mean helping a million hungry children, and the diplomatic issue, the center of which is Jerusalem," Yishai said.
He cautioned that Shas would not be part of any government without solving these issues.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak briefed Labor ministers on his meeting the previous night with Netanyahu and said that a national emergency government was the best way forward for Israel.
"In light of the political, security and economic challenges, the correct move for the people of Israel is [the formation of] a very broad national emergency government. What interests me is what is good for Israel," Barak said at a Labor faction gathering prior to the weekly cabinet meeting.
Barak, who, aides said, may prefer to form a national emergency government with the Likud, met Netanyahu Saturday night at the Defense Ministry. The opposition leader urged Barak to help initiate a new general election rather than join Livni's government. Barak, who is scheduled to meet separately with Livni on Sunday, will also hold talks with Shas chairman Eli Yishai.
Barak also met President Shimon Peres on Sunday morning and the two apparently discussed Barak's next move in the wake of Livni's primary victory, Army Radio reported.
Meanwhile, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said that Barak had asked Livni to commit to a stable coalition for the next two years as a condition for Labor staying in the government.
"She can guarantee these conditionsâ€¦that will ensure a two-year working plan for the benefit of Israeli citizens," Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio.
Ben-Eliezer denied that Barak had told Netanyahu that he would accept remaining defense minister in the next government, saying that no one goes to elections in order to become the number two.
Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel said that Barak and Netanyahu had not yet reached any understandings regarding joining forces in a new government. "Netanyahu needs to say, 'I want to be part of a national emergency government,' and this is not something that I can say is on his agenda at the moment," Cabel told Army Radio, adding that talk of a Labor-Likud alliance was still "exaggerated speculation."
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) predicted that there would be elections followed by the formation of a national emergency government, saying that a general election was merely a matter of time. He said Livni erred by not affording special treatment to her current coalition partners and that Labor was not anyone's "secondary contractor."
"The coalition talks are nothing but a game, since everyone knows elections are near," Simhon told Israel Radio.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) told the radio station that Livni wanted Labor to remain in the government, adding that Barak must immediately make a "brave decision" in order to stabilize the political establishment. Hasson said Kadima was not afraid of elections, but that they were "unnecessary" at the moment. He called for a coalition on the basis of the current government's platform.
Meanwhile, shortly before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his resignation at Sunday's cabinet meeting, Shas chairman Eli Yishai implied that he did not intend to make any waves in the coalition, but also hinted to his opposition against negotiations on any controversial issues.
"I don't intend to get into the struggle, wars, or knife-sharpening taking place in Kadima, or to get involved when Olmert resigns," Yishai said. "There is no doubt that with regards to the [main diplomatic issue] that everybody sees that there is not one person - not even the outgoing prime minister - who has the moral, political or practical authority to push issues which are subject to disagreement," he added.