Kadima head Tzipi Livni has made progress in her attempts to form a majority coalition, her aides said Thursday. Livni is attempting to convince the hareidi-religious Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties to join her in creating a Kadima-led government that would postpone general elections and allow her to serve as prime minister.
Representatives from UTJ demanded control of the Knesset's Finance Committee in exchange for supporting Livni, aides said. The demand could lead to conflict with the Labor party, as Labor MK Avishai Braverman currently heads the committee, and would need to give up his position to meet UTJ's demands.
Shas continues to demand an increase in child support payments for large families. Child payments were dramatically cut in 2002. Shas has made restoration of the payments one of its central issues, and the party's representatives said Thursday that the disagreement over child support was the only thing preventing Shas from joining Livni. Livni has shown some willingness to increase the payments, but according to her aides, has warned Shas that the payments will never return to their pre-2002 levels, when a family with eight children could receive almost 5,000 shekels per month in child stipends.
Representatives of Kadima and Shas will meet again on Thursday night to continue negotiations. Kadima will be represented by attorneys Yoram Raved and Israel Maimon. Shas will be represented by Attorney David Glass and Professor Yohanan Shatzman.
In addition to meeting with Kadima, Shas and UTJ are meeting with each other in an effort to coordinate their demands on behalf of the hareidi-religious community. Both parties have expressed interest in increasing child allowances and maintaining Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Neither has expressed concern over Livni's participation in talks with the Palestinian Authority in which the government agreed to give the PA control over 98 percent of Judea and Samaria in addition to the Jordan River Valley.