With national elections closer than ever now that Shas has turned down the Kadima Party, Likud MK Yuval Shteinitz welcomes Shas back into the nationalist camp.
Friday morning, the day after Shas announced that it would not join a government headed by Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, Shteinitz spoke with Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine. "The Shas leadership has returned to its senses," Shteinitz said, "and understood that Jerusalem cannot be sold for a pot of lentils of coalition-promise monies."
Shas and Prayers for Jerusalem
"I had long been puzzled by the fact that Shas was in contact with Livni altogether," Shteinitz added, "because it's clear that enabling Livni to become Prime Minister means dividing Jerusalem and giving away the Old City and the Temple Mount. If Shas were to do this, they would never again be able to pray sincerely, 'If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.'"
Shteinitz said that Shas is guaranteed a "place of honor" in the national unity government that most observers expect Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu to form after the next elections, whenever they are held. Many have accused Shas and Netanyahu of making a secret deal to this effect, thus torpedoing the efforts to have Shas join a Livni-led coalition. Both Shas and the Likud deny the charges.
"Netanyahu Promised More"
Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner, for instance, said Friday morning, "Livni came towards Shas, but apparently the irresponsible and empty promises that Shas received from Netanyahu were more appealing. The public will have to decide if it wants a responsible, public-minded leadership, or Netanyahu - who is willing to give up all his economic principles for the sake of attaining power."
It was Netanyahu, serving as Finance Minister from 1993 until 1995, who drastically cut back the monthly child allowances for large families that Shas now demands reinstating.
Meretz Wants Narrow Gov't
Though the Shas decision appears likely to lead to elections in the coming months, some politicians are still hoping that Livni will form a coalition with little or no Knesset majority, relying on left-wing and Arab party votes to keep it afloat. Meretz party leader Yossi Beilin said, "Livni should take advantage of the refusal of Shas to join her, and should make a bold decision to present a narrow government to the Knesst as soon as next week. This could be a rare opportunity to lead to firm moves" - a reference to an agreement that Livni wishes to sign with the Palestinian Authority regarding the division of Jerusalem and a withdrawal from over 95% of Judea and Samaria, home to an estimated 200,000 Jews.
MK Zevulun Orlev, who heads the National Religious Party faction of the National Union/NRP party, is looking forward to new elections: "I hope the spins and intrigues have finally ended, and that we can look forward to elections in which the public can have its say and vote in a worthy and stable government."
Likud Recites Blessing
Veteran Likud MK and former Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin said the Shas decision not to join Livni merits a "She-hecheyanu" blessing, which is recited over particularly happy news. "The voters of Shas are even more right-wing than the Likud," Rivlin said.
Shteinitz concluded, "Better late than never for Shas to return to its natural and right place in the nationalist camp alongside the Likud and other parties."