Shas vows it won't join new gov't without child allowance rise

Mofaz gets Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's blessing ahead of official launch of his Kadima campaign.

Yishai brill 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Yishai brill 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Shas chairman Eli Yishai reiterated on Tuesday his party's demand that the augmenting of child allowances be a condition for joining any future government coalition. "Any government that we join will have to accept our demand to increase child allowances," Yishai told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. Yishai made the comments during a tour of Green Point, an outsourcing company that provides services to the legal, financial and publishing industries. About 40 of Green Point's 100 workers are haredi and many are recent immigrants from English-speaking countries. Yishai rejected the premise that welfare cuts encouraged haredim to enter the labor market. "We found that the best way to get people to work is by providing training in a gender segregated environment where they feel comfortable." When asked if he believed the government could afford to reverse the cuts to child benefits made in 2003 by then-finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Yishai replied that the state had an obligation to fight poverty. "The government cannot afford to allow nearly a fifth of our children to live under the poverty line." Yishai also commented on a speech made this week by Shas's spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in which the rabbi praised Netanyahu for his "secret gestures" for the sake of Torah scholarship. Yishai dismissed claims that Yosef's comments were a sign of Shas's improving relationship with the Likud and Netanyahu. "The rabbi's comments were nothing more than good manners. That's all," he said. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz visited the home of Yosef in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood on Tuesday, and received a blessing from him ahead of the start of his campaign for the Kadima leadership. Mofaz sought the rabbi's blessing because he intended to officially declare his candidacy at a rally in Jerusalem later Tuesday evening. The meeting lasted 15 minutes and Mofaz refused to speak to reporters on the way in or out, but Yishai, who was present in the meeting, told reporters afterwards that Mofaz had given Yosef a brief update on the issues of the day. "Mofaz, who meets regularly with the rabbi, informed him that he is running and received a blessing, as everyone who comes to the rabbi does," Yishai said. "Tzipi Livni and the other Kadima leadership candidates of course are invited as well, as the rabbi makes a point of not interfering." Yishai said it was not a problem with Jewish law that Mofaz was announcing his candidacy during the nine days of mourning ahead of Tisha Be'av when businesses and other initiatives, according to Jewish tradition, do not receive a blessing from above. Mofaz is the only one of the four Kadima leadership candidates who has made clear to Shas that he will accept their demands for raising child-welfare benefits. Shas also said they would be pleased if Mofaz won because the native of Iran would be Israel's first Sephardi prime minister.