Shas Rules Out Joining Gov't.

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JERUSALEM, Israel - After Friday morning's meeting with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at his Jerusalem residence, Shas chairman Eli Yishai announced that they would not join Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's government.

On Thursday, Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi made a last-ditch effort to persuade Shas to join the coalition.

To sweeten the deal, Livni offered to reopen discussions on expanding the rabbinical court's jurisdiction, one of the party's demands in 2006 coalition talks with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The notion was shelved due to objections by Justice Minister Daniel Friedman and Social Affairs Minister Issac Herzog, on the grounds that it infringed on the rights of non-religious Israelis.

But Shas officials said agreement had already been reached on the issue and Livni needed to ensure it was enforced.

Meanwhile, Livni's offer to revoke a reduction allocations to yeshivot (religious seminaries) also struck a sour note with Shas officials, who said that funding was already part of the coalition agreement.

"We did not ask for money for the yeshivot," Communications Minister Ariel Atias told Shas faction members Thursday.

"We asked them why they were doing this, as it is already in the coalition agreement. They want to appear as heroes to the public, but this is dishonest," he said.

"The Kadima people could have ended this immediately, but they prefer to give the impression that they are handing out millions to make it appear that we're milking them," another senior Shas official said.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news

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