Shas surprised by Livni-Qurei meeting

Shas Chairman Yishai to demand clarification from Olmert on negotiations upon his return from Berlin.

livni big head 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
livni big head 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Shas chairman Eli Yishai was surprised to hear about the frequency of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's negotiations with former Palestinian Authority prime minister Ahmed Qurei, Shas sources said Tuesday. Yishai had been promised that he would be kept up to date on the talks with the Palestinians by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni, but he learned from Ma'ariv that Livni had met with Qurei on both Monday and Tuesday. Hearing about the meetings from the press reinforced for Shas officials that The Jerusalem Post's reports about secret negotiations on Jerusalem were correct. Yishai said on Monday that if the story were true, his party would leave the government. Shas officials said Yishai would meet with Olmert after the latter returned from his trip to Germany. Olmert told reporters in Berlin that Jerusalem and other sensitive subjects would be left until the end of talks, after agreements had been reached on other matters. "I wouldn't say that we have pushed the Jerusalem issue aside, but we don't want to corner ourselves at the beginning of negotiations," Olmert said. Sources close to Yishai said Olmert's statement was unsatisfying in light of the Shas's new threat that any diplomatic progress on any issue while Kassam rockets were falling on Sderot could lead to the party's departure from the coalition. Livni's associates said her meetings with Qurei were not secret, and denied reports about tension between herself and Shas. Ma'ariv reported that Shas officials believed Livni was holding covert talks with the Palestinians behind the prime minister's back to force Shas to quit the coalition and bring down Olmert's government. "We don't expect Olmert to scold Livni," a Shas official said. "We just want to know if she is conducting secret negotiations on Jerusalem." Communications Minister Ariel Attias, the No. 2 man in Shas's Knesset faction, said Tuesday morning he believed that secret talks on Jerusalem had been taking place. "We get the impression that Jerusalem is being discussed," Attias said. "The foreign minister doesn't deny it. Olmert has to decide whether he wants Shas in the government or whether he wants what Livni is doing."