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Monday, May 12, 2008

Shas looking for a way out?

The quickest way for the Olmert-Barak-Livni government to fall would be if Shas were to pull out. Shas, which has twelve seats, holds the balance of power in the Knesset. If Shas votes no confidence, unless someone else in the opposition votes with the government, the government will fall.

Until now, Shas has drawn its red line at 'negotiations over Jerusalem' and then has pretended that they don't exist. But now Shas is trying to box Olmert in a little tighter, perhaps with a view towards extirpating itself from a situation where it is supporting a government led by a thief.
Shas political leader and Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai said on Monday morning that he would recommend to his party's spiritual leaders that Shas should quit if an agreement is formulated with the Palestinian Authority. "We will not lend our hand to any attempt to hand over territory to Hamas," Yishai said.

Olmert told Newsweek last week that even if a final agreement is not reached by the end of the year, he hopes to have a type of "declaration of principles." Yishai related to this and said he would recommend quitting if "any dangerous shelf agreement is reached... Shas will not be part of a government that reduces the Jewish country and fills it with [Arab] refugees... Giving land to [PA and Fatah Chairman] Abu Mazen essentially means giving it to Hamas, as happened in Gaza. It's obvious that if Abu Mazen can't make peace amidst his own people, how can he make peace with us?"

Even just attempting to formulate such an agreement is dangerous, Yishai said: "This mad dash to attain a virtual agreement will lead to a deterioration of our security... We are in favor of peace, but first there has to be peace within the PA. Until then, we have nothing to talk about with them regarding borders, territories, and refugees, and certainly not Jerusalem. The only thing we can talk about is financial issues; if we make progress there, the terrorism will decrease."
Yishai doesn't get it. Once the 'shelf agreement' is reached, it would be too late to quit. Olmert can argue that a 'shelf agreement' does not have to be brought to the Knesset for approval because only agreements that are going to be implemented have to be brought for approval. When and if the time comes for the agreement to be implemented the pressure on Israel to abide by it unchanged would be enormous.

YNet adds:
Yishai further warned that "the unrestrained pursuit of a virtual agreement would lead to deterioration in security." He said that should such a deal materialize, he would recommend to the Council of Torah Sages, which dictates the party's political course, to instruct Shas to leave the government.

"We support peace, Israel is a peace-seeking country, but those who cannot promote peace within their own people cannot make peace with us… as long as there's no peace there, there's no point to discuss borders, territories ad refugees, not to mention Jerusalem. Discussing Jerusalem is out of the question."
So is Yishai looking for a way out? Has anything really changed? It appears to me that he's trying to keep his options open and prepare the groundwork for an excuse to leave when and if he decides that Shas' remaining in the government is going to hurt its prospects in the next election. Until then, don't hold your breath waiting for Shas to leave. It's not going to happen.


At 2:59 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert may have taken a blow to his political solar plexus... but that's different from saying its a knockout. No one wants to leave the government at least until its clear who his likely successor might be... if he is indicted.


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