Olmert working on compromise with Shas

PM's adviser: "Shas is a loyal coalition partner...[unlike Labor] they didn't initiate a political maneuver against the government."

yishai looks up 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yishai looks up 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's associates vowed on Sunday to reach a deal with Shas by Wednesday, in time to prevent the party from voting in favor of a bill that would dissolve the Knesset and set a November election date. At the same time that Olmert personally warned Labor ministers that they would be fired if they voted for the bill, his advisers downplayed the dispute with Shas and expressed confidence that a solution could be found. "Shas is a loyal coalition partner," Olmert's strategic adviser Tal Zilberstein said. "[Unlike Labor], they didn't initiate a political maneuver against the government. There is an ideological difference on the issue of child welfare payments, and we are doing everything possible to resolve it." Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On met Sunday with Shas chairman Eli Yishai. Zilberstein said officials were "working around the clock" to reach a deal, but Yishai's spokesman said that "no movement has been made on child welfare payments and that's the only issue that matters to us." Yediot Aharonot reported Sunday that Olmert was prepared to raise the monthly payments by NIS 50 for every child from a family's fourth and onward. Bar-On told the newspaper in a weekend interview that if the welfare payments were raised, he would resign on principle. The Shas spokesman said that the party was seeking an equal raise for every child born and that Olmert would have to be ready to sacrifice his finance minister and close political ally to keep the party in the coalition. "It's a zero-sum-game," he said. "The chances of us staying in the government are about 30 percent." United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz said Sunday that even though his party was in the opposition, it had not decided yet whether its six MKs would vote in favor of dissolving the Knesset. He said his faction would have to meet to consider its alternatives. "The Likud has made no promises that our demands would be met if they were elected," Ravitz said. "But this government was willing before and is ready now to accept UTJ's demands on matters of religion, haredi education and child welfare payments."