Rabbi Ovadia Yosef will order Shas to leave the government coalition if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reaches agreements with the Palestinians at Annapolis over the partitioning of Jerusalem, Shas sources said Thursday.
"In the present situation any territorial concessions would not bring peace. It would only endanger Jewish lives," said one of Yosef's aides.
In principle, Yosef is not opposed to territorial compromises in exchange for a lasting peace agreement. He has even made halachic rulings to that effect.
Shas also supported the Oslo Accords passively by abstaining, thus allowing the cabinet to ratify them.
However, the rabbi, the most respected living Sephardi halachic authority, believes that negotiations cannot be held until a strong Palestinian government that can maintain order gains power.
As long as there is no united Palestinian leadership that recognizes Israel's existence, any territorial compromise, especially within Jerusalem, would endanger Jewish lives, Yosef claims.
In a related incident, MK Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta'al), head of the southern division of the Islamic Movement, sent a letter to Ovadia expressing surprise at Shas Chairman Eli Yishai's comments to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a meeting this week between the two in Jerusalem.
Yishai told Rice that Shas would oppose any partitioning of Jerusalem, including Arab neighborhoods that came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War.
In his letter to Yosef, Sarsour asked if Yishai's comments mark a change in the rabbi's position regarding territorial compromise.
He went on to state, "If you truly believe in attaining peace with the Palestinians and living in harmony with the Arab and Islamic world there is no choice but to recognize the full rights of the Palestinian people, including Jerusalem and the refugees."
In recent weeks talk of dividing Jerusalem was raised by Deputy Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon, who said his government would consider turning over to Palestinian control Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which would become the capital of a new Palestinian state.
Although Olmert's spokesmen initially denied Ramon's statement, Olmert, speaking in the Knesset, said that Arab neighborhoods that came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War had a different status from Jerusalem proper.
Shas, with 12 mandates, is an important coalition partner. However, with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu in tacit support of transferring control over Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods to Palestinian control, Shas may lack the power to endanger the coalition.
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