Party leader Eli Yishai, however, was quoted today as saying that an agreement will not be signed today, as "we are insisting on certain points."



It has been reported that Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, known to be against unilateral withdrawals, instructed Yishai to insist on receiving four ministerial portfolios, and not the three that have been offered.



Political analyst Yoav Yitzchak noted that the coalition guidelines do not specifically mention the convergence plan that Olmert has touted for some months. Yitzchak implies that Olmert has thus betrayed his voters.



Others note, however, the fact that the guidelines promise that, if negotiations with the Palestinian Authority are not fruitful, the government will "take action" in the framework of "reducing Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria." They say that this gives Olmert ample room in which to carry out his convergence plan, withdraw from large areas of the Land of Israel, and uproot additional tens of thousands of Jews from their homes.



Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev told Arutz-7, "Olmert is smart and wily, and these guidelines give everyone what they wish to understand... When he talks of reducing settlement areas, he means removing some outposts, not bona-fide communities."



A-7: "Are you too, then, not falling into this trap of understanding the guidelines in a way that is convenient to you? Do you not feel that Olmert himself will understand them differently? After all, he is outspokenly in favor of a massive withdrawal."



Ze'ev: "I don't believe that uprooting Jewish settlements is on the agenda. We, in any event, will quit the government the moment such an issue is brought up... But in the meanwhile, there are many other issues in this country that have to be dealt with, such as the Rabbinical Courts, child allowance payments, civil marriages, and more."



A-7: "It is hard to compare an increase of, let's say, a few hundred shekels a month in child allowance increases to the possible uprooting of tens of thousands of people. But in any event, how will it help if you [Shas] quit the coalition? By joining the government now, you are enabling it to be formed; quitting it later, when Olmert will be able to rely on the votes of Meretz and the Arabs, will be too late to prevent the withdrawal that you oppose."



Ze'ev: "I don't believe that Olmert will uproot Jewish communities with a Knesset majority that relies on Arabs... I admit that we are taking a chance, but that's what politics is about."



A-7: "It's more than a chance. Right now, with Lieberman and Meretz apparently not entering the coalition, Olmert has only 55 MKs. If Meretz joins, that's 60. That is certainly not a government that he would want to present to the nation. He needs you now, so that he can form a stable government! But later, even if you quit, he will still be able to pass the withdrawal plan."



Ze'ev: "I don't see it that way. It takes a very long time to pass a law such as the convergence, and he will have to be supported by the Arabs if we quit, etc."



A-7: "Can you be so sure that you will quit the government at the right time? After all, Ariel Sharon was able to skillfully manipulate the parties that were in his coalition, constantly threatening them that if they leave, someone else will replace them. Olmert will have an easy time replicating this strategy."



Ze'ev: "...Again, that's politics: knowing when to go in and knowing when to leave before it's too late."



The grassroots "Cities of Israel" organization called upon Land of Israel loyalists to "include in your Sabbath preparations today the buying of a newspaper at your local grocery, and going to your local Shas representative, and asking him what he thinks about his party joining a government with guidelines calling for a unilateral 'reduction in Israeli settlement areas in Judea and Samaria.'



"You should tell him that we thought that Shas' regret over its participation in the Oslo process was genuine. But now it looks like you're saying 'I will sin and then repent' [in which the repentance is not accepted].



"Any local Shas representative, such as the Shas representative on each city's council, has a direct connection to the top echelons of the party," a Cities of Israel volunteer explained. "It is imperative that each of us employ the 'grocery-newspaper-Shas' method today, immediately, so that the Shas leaders receive a strong message from below, before Sabbath, that they are returning to their Oslo sins."



Cities of Israel veteran spokesperson Susie Dym urged Israelis who have already implemented the above method "to double and triple their individual influence by encouraging several friends to follow their good example. None of us should be willing to leave their own local Shas stone unturned."



The Shas party website (in Hebrew only;) provides this email address for making contact.

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