'Shas will safeguard Israel's interests'

Yosef reassures Netanyahu ahead of Annapolis: Shas will stem 'tide of irresponsibility.'

Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu pouts like a chimp 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shas will safeguard the interests of Israel and will not allow any part of Jerusalem to be ceded to the Palestinians, including Arab neighborhoods, said Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef during a talk Monday with opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) about the Annapolis summit. "We will stem the tide of irresponsible behavior," Yosef assured Netanyahu. "I am aware of the dangers presented by Annapolis to Israeli security, the dangers to Jerusalem and the dangers to the holy sites." Netanyahu visited Yosef at his home in Jerusalem in an attempt to convince him to quit the government coalition in protest against Annapolis. "[Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is repeating the same mistakes that [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak made at Camp David," Netanyahu warned Yosef. "He wants to give everything up even before the summit begins in return for nothing except for terrorism." Both Shas and Israel Beitenu, two parties with predominantly right-wing constituencies, have been severely criticized for failing to leave the government in protest against the Annapolis talks. Right-wing critics, pointing to the Oslo Accords and Israel's disengagement from Gaza, warn that peace accords inevitably lead to an escalation of terrorism. But Communications Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) rebuffed the criticism and doomsday predictions. Speaking on Israel Radio after the meeting between Yosef and Netanyahu, Atias said that the Annapolis summit did not pose any real dangers, since all the truly controversial issues had been taken off the agenda. "We started off with [vice premier] Haim Ramon's vision of an Annapolis that included dividing Jerusalem, providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and discussing the right of return for Palestinians, and now we have a much lower-volume agenda thanks to Shas's opposition," said Atias. "Rabbi Ovadia wants to wait and see all sides like a true rabbinic judge. For instance, before the Gaza disengagement the rabbi heard both sides and he made a decision. And in the end he reached a definitive decision which he made public during his satellite lectures that reached over 100,000 people. "With Annapolis the rabbi is doing the same thing. Netanyahu looks at Annapolis as a danger while Olmert keeps saying that no substantive issues will be discussed. But no one really knows where things are headed yet." Atias rejected the possibility that Shas's diplomatic stance would be influenced by its interest in remaining close to the decision-making process regarding fiscal issues. "Before the disengagement, prime minister Ariel Sharon was willing to give us as much as half of the kingdom," said Atias. "But the rabbi had already made his decision and could not be budged." Atias also intimated that Yosef's past support for territorial compromises within the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians has wavered in recent years. "Oslo blew up in our faces. We are also reaping the rotten harvest of the Gaza disengagement. The rabbi is being very careful."