Shas Sephardi religious party leader Eli Yishai said Sunday he is even willing to give up his Cabinet post if that is the price to keep the party in the next coalition government.
“We have to be in the coalition, the previous government’s Interior Minister told an Israeli radio station affiliated with Shas. However, he clarified his statement to say he was stating his own personal views and not the official party line, which is dictated by former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
For the first time in recent memory, both Shas and the Degel HaTorah party of Ashkenazi Haredi Jews face the possibility of being in the opposition, along with the Arab parties, Labor and Meretz.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has one near-term urgent crisis, and it is not Iran or Syria. It is the budget, which by law must be passed by March 31 in order for the government to remain in power.
A huge deficit and an equally huge need for Israel to defend itself against increasingly armed enemies are forcing the Haredi parties to circle their wagons and take whatever they can get.
Yishai said he wants to “avid a rift in the country” while preserving the world of Torah.” a tough combination in the face of the stunning success of the secular Yesh Atid (Future) party headed by Yair Lapid.
He ran on a platform of cutting yeshiva students’ exemptions from the military draft. Yishai is pinning his hopes on Prime Minister Netanyahu to “reach a bold decision and convince Lapid that the world of the Torah is important to us.”