Shas to enter coalition with Kadima

Disagreement over Yishai's role in gov't-to-be delays signing of agreement.

Shas and United Torah Judaism will not sign a coalition agreement with Kadima until next week, Kadima officials said Friday morning. Shas had seemed poised Thursday evening to immediately join the Kadima-led coalition. The new delay was caused by disagreement on what Shas chairman Eli Yishai's position would be in a future government. While Shas wants him to be Minister of Transportation, Industry and Employment as well as the managerial appointee for the Israeli Lands portfolio, Kadima said that they would give Yishai either the Transportation or Construction portfolios, but not managerial responsibility for the ministries. Shas had obtained a list of demands that included a reversal of cuts in child benefits, the Industry, Trade and Labor and Communications portfolios and control of religious services. Eli Yishai reached a tentative agreement with Ovad Yehezkiel, a member of Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's negotiating team which was presented to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef early Thursday evening. Yishai was slated to meet with Olmert late Thursday evening to finalize the agreement. A Shas spokesman said that Kadima agreed to stop future cuts of NIS 600 million to child benefits through 2009, and reverse about NIS 500m. in cuts already made. United Torah Judaism, which is still far from a coalition agreement, attacked Shas for caving in on civil marriages. "Eli Yishai [Shas Chairman] will be a pariah among both Lithuanian and Hassidic communities for destroying the status quo," said a source close to Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the preeminent spiritual leader of Lithuanian haredi Jewry represented in the Knesset by Degel Hatorah, one of two factions that make up UTJ. UTJ Chairman MK Yitzhak Litzman said that the Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, the senior leader of Agudat Yisrael, the second faction making up UTJ, rejected outright entering any government with coalition guidelines that call for civil marriage. However, a Shas spokesman said his party would demand the approval of Rabbi Shlomo Amar before signing any civil marriage legislation. According to a recent Central Bureau of Statistics study, there were at the beginning of 2005 294,600 Israeli citizens here under the auspices of the Law of Return who cannot marry because they are not Jews according to Halacha.