[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Considering that the negotiations are taking
place in secret it is hardly clear if Shas will actually know when Jerusalem
is the subject of negotiations. But even if taken at face value the
approach make absolutely no sense. And the absence of logic should most
certainly be clear to negotiating masters like Yishai.
Leaving the Jerusalem issue to the end of the talks means throwing in all
the chips before the issue is settled.
"We are so close to the peace we all so desperately want. All the other
issues have been settled. Are a bunch of stones more valuable than the
Israeli blood that will flow if the deal is not made?" So will argue not
only the Olmert team and their supporters in the media etc. but also Rabbi
Rabbi Yosef could readily take the position that for "pikuach nefesh" (life
endangering situation) Israel has to cut a deal on Jerusalem at all costs.
The "pikuach nefesh" standard for Rabbi Yosef relies heavily on expectations
regarding the short term consequences of a decision rather than long term,
so it would not be particularly difficult for the Olmert team to provide
Rabbi Yosef with various "experts" to back a "trade Jerusalem to save lives"
PM to cave in to Shas on Jerusalem
Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 17, 2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert intends to accept Shas's demand that negotiations
on the fate of Jerusalem be set aside until the end of the Annapolis
diplomatic process, Shas sources said following conversations with the Prime
Israel Beiteinu's departure from the coalition on Wednesday left the
coalition with a fragile 67 MKs and made the 12-member Shas faction the only
right-wing party in the government.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai called cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel and
requested a meeting with Olmert on Sunday, following Yishai's return from
China, to clarify Olmert's views on dividing Jerusalem.
Olmert's associates relayed messages to Yishai and to Communications
Minister Ariel Attias that negotiations with the Palestinians on Jerusalem
would proceed at a much slower pace than other core issues of the conflict.
They asked Attias to forward the messages to Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Yosef issued a new directive Tuesday that the party would leave the
government as soon as serious negotiations began on the fate of Jerusalem.
Attias said Olmert would take the threat seriously.
"Olmert is not an idiot," Attias said. "He will leave the Jerusalem issue
until the end of the negotiations because of us, and we will make sure he
never gets there. As long as we are in the government, Jerusalem will not be
negotiated. We will go to the next elections as the defenders of Jerusalem."
Shas officials said the party could remain in the government for an extended
period as long as the Jerusalem issue was not negotiated and no concrete
agreement was reached on the other core issues of the conflict, such as
refugees and the final borders of a Palestinian state.
"Negotiations on the core issues have started, and we haven't left," Attias
said. "Now that Israel Beiteinu is gone, our job is to put the brakes on
dividing Jerusalem. We will check on an ongoing basis whether Jerusalem is
on the table."
Yishai will ask Olmert at the meeting whether he intends to try to add
United Torah Judaism or Meretz to the coalition. Yishai's associates said
the party had no problem with sitting in a coalition with Meretz as it did
in the past.
Kadima sources said Olmert was leaning toward pursuing UTJ, even though he
was worried about the party's steep asking price. At least until the
Winograd Report is published January 30, Olmert intends to keep the
portfolios that will become available when Strategic Affairs Minister
Avigdor Lieberman and Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's resignations
take effect on Friday.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said that without Israel Beiteinu, Olmert would
have to shift Kadima rightward to compensate. He urged Olmert to clarify the
party's red lines against dividing Jerusalem.
"Kadima requires balance, and now the balance has been harmed,"
Schneller said. "We need to add UTJ, because a plane with one wing crashes."
Olmert's spokesman said he had not yet decided whether to try to expand the
coalition. Olmert's enemies in Kadima said that if he did not expand the
coalition after Israel Beiteinu's departure, it would be much easier to
topple him after Winograd's release.
The Likud expressed its appreciation to Lieberman for quitting and called
upon Shas to follow suit so that it wouldn't be a bridge toward dividing
Jerusalem and returning Israel to indefensible borders.
Likud MK Silvan Shalom called Lieberman's departure "the beginning of the
end of Olmert's government," while fellow Likud MK Yuval Steinitz said Shas
was fooling itself by announcing that it would remain in the government in
order to defend Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is being cut to shreds on the negotiating table, and Shas will
ultimately be responsible for the loss of the Western Wall," Steinitz said.