Shas: Evacuation Would Be Victory for Extremists

Unilateral withdrawal of civilians and soldiers from Gaza and northern Samaria is a "victory for extremists," Shas Sephardic religious party leader Eli Yishai charged.

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, | updated: 15:40

He also said the Sharon government's economic plan will cause "civil disobedience" among low-income Israelis.

The party leader reiterated the position of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that Israel should dismantle Jewish communities and give the land to Arabs only in return for a negotiated peace agreement. "If we give them land, who would not support this? I do not know any country that would oppose it. But when you do this unilaterally, and terrorism continues, it is dangerous."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon failed to convince the Shas party to join the coalition with Labor and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties because of its opposition to the expulsion plan and economic policies. Shas demanded that the government restore child support payments that are being reduced sharply.

Accepting the Shas proposal would have helped "all the hungry children and not just children of Shas," Yishai asserted. "This government is executing an economic policy that preys [on the poor] and is dangerous. It could lead to civil disobedience."

Yishai also denounced Shinui anti-religious party leader Yosef (Tomy) Lapid for joining the government coalition in exchange for 700 million shekels ($160 million) for higher education and benefits for soldiers. He said the money should have gone to poor people.

Shas will enjoy a political benefit from the Shinui party decision, according to Yishai. "Shinui was founded on the basis of hatred and incitement. No anti-religious party ever has been established in a Christian and Moslem country," he added.

"After disengagement, there will be elections. I believe that Shas will strengthen, Sharon will weaken, and Likud will lose votes to Shas to the right wing parties, although it will take some votes from Shinui."