Hoping to energize her own voters, Kadima leader vows not to put Education Ministry in Shas's hands.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's recent verbal attacks on Shas were really intended to harm the Likud, according to a haredi strategist working with Kadima who preferred to remain anonymous due to his sensitive position in a party with an anti-haredi message.
Livni has escalated her attacks on Shas in recent days, telling the Kadima council on Thursday that she will not "sell out the country to the haredim."
She continued the attacks on Sunday, telling a youth convention in Tel Aviv that anyone who wanted to see the Education portfolio given to Shas should not vote for her.
"Kadima's fight is not with Shas," the haredi strategist said. "The real fight is with Bibi [Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu]. Livni used the opportunity of [Shas mentor] Rabbi Ovadia [Yosef]'s comments [that secular teachers are asses] to arouse potential Kadima voters."
Yosef made the comments on Saturday night.
The strategist said that many potential Kadima voters, who were middle to upper-class, Ashkenazi and secular, did not vote in the last elections in 2006 because they were fed up with corruption and what he called "ideological bankruptcy."
He noted that voter turnout among potential Kadima voters in places like Tel Aviv was significantly lower than in development towns.
"By showing there is a real danger that Shas might receive the Education Ministry, Livni encourages more potential Kadima voters to come out to the voting booths," the strategist said.
"Also, Livni knows that an attack on Shas will actually strengthen Shas. And this is also good for Kadima, because Shas will get stronger at the expense of the Likud. In addition, Kadima sees Shas and United Torah Judaism as natural coalition partners in the future government. They offer a much more stable alternative to right-wing parties," he said.
At a meeting of ministers and strategists involved in her campaign, Livni lashed out at Netanyahu, accusing him of agreeing to give Shas the Education portfolio, a charge he denied in a Knesset speech two weeks ago, when he said that his party would keep the ministry in a Likud-led government.
"I proved that I know how to say no to Shas," Livni said at the meeting. "There are values that we want in our children's education, and Jewish tradition is one of them, but it's not the only one. Kadima will say no to giving the Education portfolio to Shas and we know who will give it to them."
Livni accused Netanyahu of promising Shas the portfolio when he met with Yosef during her coalition talks with the party last month. She said voters had to choose between a candidate "who is ready to give everything to Shas" and a candidate, namely herself, who is not.
Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Vice Premier Haim Ramon, both of Kadima, backed up Livni, saying they knew from sources in Shas that Netanyahu had promised them the ministry.
"Shas wouldn't begin a campaign for the Education Ministry if it didn't know that in the end, the ministry would be in their hands," Ramon said.
The head of Shas's Knesset faction, MK Ya'acov Margi, responded by accusing Kadima of racism. He compared it to parties in Europe in the 1930s.
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