Yishai: I'm ready to leave gov't tomorrow

Council of Torah Sages: If child welfare demand rejected, party to support bill to dissolve Knesset.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Shas chairman Eli Yishai took a step toward ending the tenure of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday when he received the endorsement of his party's Council of Torah Sages to vote in favor of dispersing the Knesset if child welfare payments are not increased. A preliminary vote on a bill to disperse the Knesset and set a November date for a general election is expected to be held on June 18. The bill will likely have the support of all 56 opposition MKs, including three Pensioners Party MKs who were allowed to form their own faction on Monday. Olmert's fiercest critics in Kadima and Labor may also vote for the bill, which would need to pass three more readings before the Knesset's summer recess begins July 30. The support of the 12 Shas MKs would ensure its passage. "If the child welfare payments are not raised, Shas will vote in favor of advancing the election and dispersing the Knesset," Yishai told reporters at his weekly faction meeting. "We have been warning the government that this must be changed, before the Talansky scandal broke out and before [Labor chairman Ehud] Barak issued his threat. The other parties are lagging behind us." Yishai said that if there were a vote to disperse the Knesset "tomorrow," his party would vote in favor. Communications Minister Ariel Attias (Shas) revealed that the party had made a strategic decision that it must bring down the government on the issue of poverty. He admitted that the party had felt the need to "create a crisis." "The date of when the vote will be to disperse the Knesset doesn't matter," Attias said. "What matters is that we are the only party in the Knesset that really cares about the poor. Shas has to emphasize the poor because this is what differentiates us." But another Shas MK said he did not understand why his party was threatening to leave the government. "With war looking close in the South and North, and no better leadership on the horizon, I don't understand the need to run to elections," he said. Barak also continued issuing threats when he addressed the Labor faction. He warned Kadima against stalling in its efforts to initiate a primary that would end Olmert's premiership. "This situation cannot continue," Barak said. "We are in favor of stability but we are preparing for elections, which could happen by the end of the year. This is not the time for foot-dragging. This is a time for correct, purposeful and well-thought out action." Kadima leadership candidate Shaul Mofaz met on Monday with MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who heads the party's steering committee. The two men discussed the procedure for how to initiate the party's first primary, which Mofaz favors holding in September. Hanegbi said no date for a primary would be set until after Talansky is cross-examined on July 17, and perhaps not until after the Knesset's summer recess begins two weeks later. Mofaz has been trying to differentiate himself from Olmert on diplomatic issues, even though they have become political allies. To that end, he will tour the Golan Heights on Tuesday and meet with local residents.