Shas chairman Eli Yishai said Friday that the decision made earlier by the Council of Torah Sages for the party not to join the coalition was final. "As I said, the Council of Torah Sages decided this morning after a telephone survey and in accordance with the directives of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that Shas will not join the government," said Yishai at a press conference next to his home in Jerusalem. "The decision is final."
Yishai said his party's demands for the allocation of more funds to poor Israelis and for a commitment that Jerusalem remain united, demands which were not met by Kadima, were not personal, but were for the benefit of the entire country. "We have made our decision according to our principles. Shas cannot be bought. We will stick to out goals and principles," he said.
"A year ago, the decision was made in Shas that if [the division of] Jerusalem is discussed, it would withdraw from the government. Even more so, it will not join [a government] without a commitment not to negotiate over Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not for sale," Yishai continued.
If Israelis were to go to the polls, there is a good chance that Kadima and the party’s current coalition parties would face staggering losses in a general election while Shas support would remain the same or possibly increase slightly for standing up for the ‘poor’ and Jerusalem.
In theory, Kadima could still manage to reach the 60 knesset seat mark with a coalition of Kadima-Labor-Meretz but the government would also have to solicit heavily on the support of the Arab parties as well. This bodes ill as every piece of coalition legislation put forward could end in a potential draw. Of course, eventually Kadima will have to go to the polls if just one MK breaks or bolts coalition ranks. If or when that happens, Kadima has to justify its alliance with the extreme lefties like Meretz and the Arab parties to the Israeli electorate. So what to do? Either Kadima meets Shas price and conditions and potentially risks the ire of their confirmed coalition partners or take a chance and go to the polls.
Rumours are abounding everywhere suggesting Livni is said to be in favour of taking a chance and rolling the dice by calling for a general election (my preferred solution). And I suspect the Kadima spinmeisters have already found their framing of Shas rejection. Ynet News:
After the Shas party officially announced Friday that its Council of Torah Sages voted against joining a new government led by Tzipi Livni, sources close to the Kadima chairwoman said the haredi party's leader, Eli Yishai withheld information from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef regarding the understandings reached during the coalition negotiations. Rabbi Yosef is Shas' spiritual leader and heads the Council of Torah Sages.
"Yishai led the country in circles for 28 days," a Livni associate told Ynet Friday evening. "He is a coward and deceived everyone." Yishai, for his part, said Shas was not joining the coalition because the rabbis were opposed to any Israel-Palestinian negotiations surrounding Jerusalem's future. Sources in Kadima said the vote Shas conducted Friday morning did not include all the members of the Council of Torah Sages, adding that Yishai prevented the head of Shas' negotiating team, Attorney David Glass, from meeting Rabbi Yosef Friday morning. Glass is in favor of Shas' inclusion in the government.
All of which leads me to suggest elections are in the air as one does not go around publicly accusing a leading political head of a political party who one wishes to join in your coalition government of lying and cowardliness. I believe this is where the ATFAT principle (a turn for a turn) gets invoked.
One Shas coalition condition Kadima cannot afford to have debated in the public forum is Shas refusal to enter any government which puts a united Jerusalem on the auction block with the Palestinians.