Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

16 Tammuz 5759 - June 30, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Broad Government Coalition Seems Likely

by Eliezer Rauchberger and Mordecai Plaut

Though there is still time for last minute maneuvering, at press time it appears that Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak of the One Israel party will enjoy a broad coalition of 77 members, based on Shas as the second largest party and not the Likud. Mafdal has already signed a coalition agreement. Meretz is likely to be in, though officially they are waiting to see the agreement that is reached with Shas before deciding. Meretz asserted very categorically that it would not sit with Shas both during the campaign and immediately after the elections, and it may support the coalition from the outside for a "cooling off period" before sitting with Shas. They have made it clear that they will support Barak in any case, and Barak has made it clear that he will save their seats at the government table for them. Most observers think that they will join right away.

Throughout the negotiations with the Likud, which lasted through Monday, accusations were exchanged between the temporary chairman of the Likud, Minister Ariel Sharon, and the elected Prime Minster, Ehud Barak. Sharon accused Barak of not conducting the negotiations with Likud with integrity, but with the purpose of lowering the "price" of Shas. Barak's office denies this charge.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the negotiating team of One Israel met Monday night with the negotiating team of Shas, in order to hammer out which portfolios Shas will receive in the government, and the final details which still hadn't been completed in the coalition agreement between he two sides. Shas will receive the Labor and Welfare ministry (which they had in the previous government), as well as the Infrastructure and the Health portfolios. According to the rule fixed by Barak of one minister to four MKs, Shas is entitled to another ministry. There had been talk of reorganizing the Infrastructure ministry, but Shas wanted the Israel Land Administration and the Public Works Department to be left within.

Shas also demanded to have full control over the Ministry of Religious Affairs. However One Israel cannot fulfill this demand due to its already signed agreement with the Mafdal that it will have joint control of that Ministry. Shas proposed to appoint a minister from Shas and the director general from Mafdal, but this suggestion was not accepted.

Shas also asked for the Communications portfolio, as well as deputy ministers in the Interior Ministry and the Education Ministry.

Barak made contact between Minister Eli Yishai and the chairman of the Mafdal, Minister Yitzchok Levi, asking the two to come to terms regarding collaboration between Shas and the Mafdal in the Religious Affairs Ministry. Monday night, Levi and Yishai met together along with Barak in order to try and find a solution to this problem.

After all of the details are finalized between Shas and One Israel, the Moetzes Chachmei HaTorah of Shas will meet in order to approve the conclusions and to authorize the heads of the faction to sign the coalition agreement.

According to reports in the press, Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said that they two key issues for UTJ are a satisfactory arrangement for yeshiva students, and complete autonomy for the chareidi educational system. The latter is of particular concern if, as appears likely, Yossi Sarid is the minister of Education. UTJ is focusing in its negotiations on these issues of principle and not on ministerial appointments. Some reports say that UTJ would not even accept a deputy ministry appointment in a government that includes Meretz and will trade its support for commitments about the yeshiva draft and other areas.

So far, For now the only parties that have signed coalition agreements with One Israel (26) are Yisrael Ba'aliya (6), the NRP (5), and Meretz (10). Other signed agreements are expected with the Center Party (6), UTJ (5), Am Echad (2), and Shas (17). This would give Barak a coalition of 77 MKs, well above the minimum of 61. The rabidly anti-religious Shinui will not join a coalition with Shas.

At the time of writing, serious problems still exist with the Center Party and Am Echad, but they cannot break the coalition if it includes Shas, and will probably have to accept what they are offered.

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