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Friday, February 15, 2008

Shas to quit government?

Tired of playing a shell game with Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert, Shas seems to be making preparations to leave the Olmert-Barak-Livni junta. That's the upshot of a couple of articles in the media today that indicate that Shas is looking for excuses to leave along with a story earlier in the week in which Shas leader Eli Yishai (pictured, top left) warned activists to be ready for elections later this year.

Shas has two excuses for leaving. The first - the continued gaps between rich and poor (35% of the country's children are growing up in poverty - mainly Haredi and Arab children in large families) - is a populist gesture but is not the real reason:
Shas may quit the government following the publication of the National Insurance Institute (NII) poverty report, which shows that the government was not doing enough to care for the plight of poor children, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai warned Thursday.

"Shas will not remain in a government that remains closefisted towards the children of Israel," Yishai said. "What more needs to happen; how many more poverty reports need to come out until they understand that the only way to escape poverty is to reinstate welfare stipends."

According to the report, poverty levels in Israel have remained unchanged but the overall rise in living standards means the gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

An unexpected drop in living standards was registered among the elderly, comprising 20 percent of households in Israel, with poverty levels rising by two percent over the last year.

Also, there was an increase in the number of working families considered poor, this following the entry into the job market of large numbers of low-salary and part-time employees.
So far the government has yet to figure out that taxing people at 48% (not including NII (social security-like) payments of about 17% and value added tax of 15.5% on everything you buy) once they make $3000 per month is not conducive to getting them out of poverty.

That sounds nice but it's not the real reason Shas may be leaving. The real reason Shas may be leaving is that Olmert is playing them for fools by insisting that Jerusalem will be the last item on the agenda for the 'peace talks' while sending his foreign minister (Livni) to negotiate with Ahmad Qrei Abu Ala over Jerusalem. So far, the threat has only come from Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the oldest son of Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. But don't believe the stories about him not having influence. Most people I know with bright sons will at least hear them out:
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the eldest son of the current spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is charging the party with endangering Jews.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef said the Shas party should immediately quit the government or bear responsibility for putting Israel in grave danger.

He charged Wednesday that Shas can no longer use the excuse that negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to surrender parts of Jerusalem are far from fruition.

Shas party chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Eli Yishai, expressed surprise Tuesday when reporters informed him that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, chief negotiator for Israel, had discussed the status of Jerusalem with PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia in meetings Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said repeatedly that the status of Jerusalem would not be negotiated until after all other outstanding issues had been resolved in the negotiations with the PA.

As late as Wednesday, the prime minister reassured Minister Yishai that he remained firm in his commitment that Jerusalem would not be put on the negotiating table at this point, despite numerous reports to the contrary.


Shas sources say that Yosef has disagreed politically in the past with his father, the party’s spiritual leader and said that Yosef’s views do not reflect the positions of his father or of the Shas party.

They reiterated, however, that Shas remains firm in its intention to leave the government if Jerusalem is put on the negotiating table.
This is starting to get interesting. If Shas were to quit, the coalition would be left with 55 members in the 120-seat Knesset.


At 4:21 AM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

Feel free to ignore this question if it's too off topic, but I'd be interested in your take on the situation with the haredi men who are unemployed and studying full-time in yeshivas in order to avoid army service. I gather this contributes quite a bit to the overall poverty rate, and that their wives mostly support them and their families, along with some sort of welfare payments. The whole situation is quite foreign to an American. For one thing, American traditionalists tend to be very strong on the man's being the breadwinner, so the idea of Israeli traditionalists with large families supported by working wives just seems like a mix in categories.

But again, that is just picking up on the one bit of the post about poverty levels and such, not on the main post about Shas quitting and the Olmert government lying about negotiations on Jerusalem (which is hardly surprising).

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Steven said...

All those emails I have been sending trying to get them to leave the government may not have been completely in vain... but Tulips says that Meretz will just step in if Shas leaves.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Even if Meretz steps in they have five seats. That would give the government exactly 60 which is no way to govern.


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