Kadima, Labor Deal Doesn't Fly with Shas

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The coalition deal between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor party, signed just before the beginning of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), may keep the ultra-Orthodox Shas party from joining Livni's government.

Shas chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai was especially miffed at the veto power granted Barak.

"Labor's coalition deal allows Barak to force his viewpoint on the government and to paralyze the Cabinet if he does not get his way," Yisahi said. "This is unacceptable to Shas and takes us one step further away from joining the government," he said.

In addition to its demands for increased child support for large haredi families, Shas has said it will not be part of a government planning to divide Jerusalem.

If Livni is unable to form a coalition by Monday, she is expected to ask President Shimon Peres for a two-week extension, giving her until November 3.

If she does not succeed, Peres has two options: appoint another party to form a government, which is doubtful, or call for early elections.

Livni is also holding talks with the ultra-left-wing Meretz Party, which Shas also objects to, and with the Pensioner's Party and United Torah Judaism.

Kadima MK (member of Knesset) Ze'ev Elkin said he and several other Kadima MKs would block the formation of a narrow government.

"If Livni forms a government with only the Left, it will have no right to exist," Elkin said. "Either she forms a balanced government or there will be an election," he said.

MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who has played a key role as Livni's representative in coalition talks, told Israel Radio Wednesday that if Shas doesn't join the government, Livni will call for early elections.

Meanwhile, Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu told Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that the time is ripe for early elections.

"At this time, we need a government that will bolster Israel's economy and protect Jerusalem. This government cannot do that and therefore there must be an election," Netanyahu told Rabbi Yosef.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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