Shas Still Holding Out

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JERUSALEM, Israel - After consulting with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, party chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai turned down Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's coalition deal Wednesday evening.

According to one Israeli media source, Livni has more than doubled her original offer of 500 million shekels in child welfare payments and allocations to religious institutions to 1 billion shekels (approximately $257 million).

Another source quoted Shas MKs' (members of Knesset) figure of 800 million shekels (about $206,500,000) as the latest offer.

Livni's chief coalition negotiator, MK Tzachi Hanegi will join Thursday's meetings with Shas in an effort to convince Yishai to soften his position and join the government.

Negotiations with United Torah Judaism and the ultra-left-wing Meretz party will also continue Thursday.

Livni's willingness to settle for a narrow 60-member coalition is unacceptable to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who along with at least six Kadima party members, plans to vote against forming a narrow, left-dominated government.

Rafi Eitan, chairman of the Pensioners party, is also opposed to a narrow coalition.

"Our inclination is that elections are preferable to a narrow coalition of 60 Knesset members," Eitan said. "It will be impossible to work in such a government," he said.

Sources: YNet news, Haaretz

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