Shas may leave gov't if J'lem on table

Chairman Yishai joins Lieberman in threat to leave coalition if division of Jerusalem will be discussed.

lieberman yishai 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lieberman yishai 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"When talks about [the potentiality of dividing] Jerusalem begin, Shas will have a hard time staying in the government," the party's chairman, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, was quoted by Army Radio as saying Friday morning. The minister made the statement on the final day of US President George W. Bush's visit to Israel, a day after Bush asked ministers Thursday evening to "take care of Olmert, so he will stay in power." Bush made the request during a meal with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Yishai's apparent defiance of the request came less than 24 hours after he defied a request by Olmert, at the beginning of the same meal, not to discuss the issue of Israeli Jonathan Pollard, incarcerated in the US for spying for Israel. Yishai ignored Olmert, handing Bush two letters, one from Pollard's wife Esther, and another from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's spiritual leader. In his statement Friday, Yishai joined the camp of Israel Beiteinu, whose leader Avigdor Lieberman has also threatened to leave the government if issues such as Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees would be put on the table. But Olmert did not seem concerned by Lieberman's threat when he ordered the Israeli negotiating team on Monday to begin discussing so-called 'core issues.' While Olmert's Kadima-led coalition could essentially survive without Israel Beiteinu's 11 Knesset seats, albeit as a weaker government, his coalition would collapse if both Shas and Israel Beiteinu - jointly holding 23 seats - made good on their threats to leave.