Shas pushes 'social road map'

Meeting between Shas faction and Katsav was one of the shortest held.

shas 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
shas 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The meeting between the Shas Knesset faction and President Moshe Katsav Tuesday evening was one of the shortest he has had during the consultations designed to help him decide who he will designate to form the next government. It was all very cut and dried. Shas endorsed Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, exchanged views with Katsav on social concerns and happily marked the demise of the secular Shinui party. Yishai told reporters after the meeting, "The people of Israel have decided that Ehud Olmert will form the government, and we endorse him." The election results, Yishai said, also reflected something else that the people of Israel wanted. "They said they want a social revolution, they want Jewish tradition and they want Jewish values." He said the desire for social change was evidenced by the success of the Gil Pensioners Party and the number of mandates earned by Labor and Shas. The disappearance of Shinui from the political landscape was proof of the desire for strengthened Jewish values, he said. He said Shas would enter negotiations with Olmert as soon as the coalition talks start. "We want to implement a social road map," said Yishai. He said Labor chairman Amir Peretz had spoken to him about forming a 'social justice bloc,' but had not asked to be endorsed for prime minister. Yishai expressed confidence that a coalition of Labor, Shas and Gil in a Kadima-led government could influence social policy. Yishai said that specific ministerial portfolios were less important to Shas than helping the weakest members of society. Shas has another issue to consider. The opening session of the 17th Knesset falls during the intermediate days of Pessah, a time that is acutely inconvenient for Shas. Yishai said that he understood there were legal complications about deferring the session, but he was hopeful that it could be brought forward so that the plenum of the 17th Knesset would convene for the first time before Pessah. The meeting with Shas was the fifth and last conducted by Katsav on Tuesday. At the start of the meeting, Katsav said he had received a telephone call from Peretz telling him that he was endorsing Olmert. Earlier in the day Katsav received a call from Olmert assuring him that he would not begin coalition talks until the president announced he was asking him to form a government. Katsav admitted that he had already made up his mind, but he said he would not make his announcement until after Central Elections Commission head Dorit Beinisch gave him the official results on Wednesday evening. Katsav still has a meeting with United Torah Judaism on Thursday. He said UJT wanted to consult with its Council of Torah Sages first. Asked whether he felt he had been duped by Labor, which on Sunday endorsed Peretz for prime minister, Katsav declined to answer beyond saying: "None of us is naive." During Sunday's meeting with Labor, he told the delegation that he had read in the newspapers that Peretz was interested in the Finance Ministry portfolio. If that was the case, he told them, Peretz must surely be planning to join a government led by Olmert. Katsav has seven days starting Wednesday in which to announce his choice. He said he planned to do so by Friday. Kadima, Gil and Shas were the only parties to endorse Olmert in their meetings with Katsav. Labor has now joined them. The National Union-National Religious Party endorsed Peretz conditionally. The Likud, Israel Beiteinu and the three Arab parties - UAL, Balad and Hadash - did not endorse anyone. United Torah Judaism is expected to endorse Olmert.