PM rewards Yishai's loyalty by adding Shas leader to key forum

For weeks, the only faction in the coalition that stood unanimously behind all of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's moves was Shas. Payback time came Wednesday when the Prime Minister's Office announced that Shas chairman Eli Yishai would be added to the previously six-member inner cabinet that makes key decisions on matters of security and diplomacy. Yishai had received a commitment from Netanyahu to be included in the forum when Shas joined the coalition but the final deal was reached only a month ago. In the past month, Yishai has spoken out in favor of Netanyahu's plans to temporarily freeze construction in Judea and Samaria. Until now, the inner cabinet has been comprised of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor and Minister-without-portfolio Bennie Begin. Begin, Ya'alon and Lieberman tend to lean Right while Barak and Meridor push Netanyahu Leftward. The addition of Yishai could make the group shift to the Right. But sources close to Netanyahu said the inner cabinet did not make decisions by majority rule and in the end, the prime minister does what he believes is correct. The most important decisions are discussed among only Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman, and Lieberman is often absent during such discussions. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Vice Premier Silvan Shalom had also received commitments to be included in the inner cabinet, but Lieberman reportedly vetoed both of them. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also wanted to be included on the committee. When Yishai's addition was announced, Barak publicly called for Ben-Eliezer to be added as well in order to maintain its balance. Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz, whose faction is now the only one in the coalition not represented in the inner cabinet, also said he would push to be included, or for decisions to be made by a forum of faction heads instead. Shalom made a point of not responding to the news.