PM to update Yishai on any concessions

An attempt to solidify coalition ahead; PM office official on reservists protest: How dare they?

eli yishai 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
eli yishai 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Shas chairman Eli Yishai on Tuesday that he would be updated immediately on every concession Israel decides to make in diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians. Olmert made the commitment in a meeting with Yishai at the Prime Minister's Office that Yishai requested following the departure from the government of Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. "We will keep Shas and every other coalition partner updated up to the minute, so they can plan their future accordingly," a source in the Prime Minister's Office said. "We made the same promise to Lieberman before he left." Shas officials said following the meeting that Yishai gave Olmert an ultimatum, saying he would leave the government if he was not kept up to date on all progress in the talks between the negotiating teams led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei. Olmert's associates told the story differently, saying that the prime minister made his commitment to Yishai before he issued a threat. "We raised the issue, not them," an Olmert associate said. "It's not an ultimatum on their part. It's a promise on ours." Olmert also reassured Yishai that no decision had been made about the fate of Jerusalem. The prime minister's associates declined to say whether Olmert made a commitment not to raise the issue in negotiations with the Palestinians until the end of the Annapolis diplomatic process. "We have never said what we would do on the Jerusalem issue," an Olmert associate said. "We never said we would divide Jerusalem. There are different ways of avoiding dividing Jerusalem." Yishai asked Olmert what his goals were for the negotiations with the Palestinians, especially on the Jerusalem issue. "Shas will not be part of the government from the moment that it drafts and presents an Israeli position that makes concessions on red lines like Jerusalem," the party said in a statement following the meeting. "We would leave as soon as such concessions are decided on, even before they are offered to the Palestinians." Yishai presented the content of the meeting to Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi told Yishai that "Shas will not divide Jerusalem and will not sit in a government that divides Jerusalem, and it is important that everyone know that." Right-wing pressure on Shas to leave the government has risen since Israel Beiteinu's departure from the coalition last week. Posters were plastered on the streets of Jerusalem Tuesday depicting Yishai with the slogan, "Eli Yishai, Don't sell out Jerusalem." In the meeting, Yishai also received an update on negotiations to bring home kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit and raised economic issues. Yishai called for a new system that would ensure that all sectors of the population benefit equally from Israel's economic growth via a rise in child welfare payments. In other political news, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz met with Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center founding president Uriel Reichman at the Daniel Hotel on Tuesday. Reichman called on Monday for Olmert to be replaced and said he did not have a preferred candidate to replace him. Mofaz's aides downplayed the meeting and said it lasted just five minutes. Channel 2 reported that an official in the Prime Minister's Office expressed outrage at a letter of 50 IDF junior commanders from the Second Lebanon War that called upon Olmert to quit. "How dare these young officers judge the functioning of the prime minister," the official was quoted as saying. "They haven't even done anything yet in their lives. They are cynically and politically taking advantage of grief and of the IDF." Channel 1 reported that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would initiate a bill to remove corruption from party primaries. Friedmann will meet Wednesday with the faction heads of Likud, Labor and Kadima. The bill would aim to prevent people from joining a party solely to influence its internal elections.