Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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25 Sivan 5759 - June 9, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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UTJ Denies It Has Agreed to Join Barak Government

by Mordecai Plaut and Yated Staff

United Torah Judaism denied emphatically that it had agreed in any way to join a government headed by Ehud Barak. An editorial in the Hebrew language Yated Ne'eman entitled "Lehadam" (Lo Hoyu Devorim Mei'olom) explained that the only activity so far has been the basic talks that are part of the routine of forming any coalition, and they do not signal any special willingness or fundamental agreement or even interest in joining the government in formation.

The editorial said that the absolute condition laid down by maranan verabonon for even entering into talks is a firm commitment to preserve the status of yeshiva students, and this has not yet been forthcoming. Senior party sources also said that no decision could be made until it the ultimate makeup of the coalition is clear.

Recent rumors, apparently floated by the negotiators of One Israel, have persistently said that Barak is assured of a "narrow" 66-member coalition, but is working toward a broader one that would include Shas or the Likud. Furthermore, Barak is not even left with an assured 61 members (after removing the five seats of UTJ) since the Mafdal, which is included in the calculations, has said repeatedly that it does not want to be the only religious party in a government.

Natan Scharansky, leader of the Russian Yisrael B'Aliya party, and one of the key elements of the coalition, is also reported to have told Barak that he is unhappy with several of One Israel's policy proposals.

Barak's calculations are pinned on a coalition including One Israel (26), Meretz (10), Yisrael B'Aliya (6), Shinui (6), the Center Party (6), the National Religious Party (5), United Torah Judaism (5), and Am Echad (2). None of the press speculation has explained how Shinui and UTJ could be part of a single government.

There will be a government," Barak said Monday night. "Its size depends on the responsibility displayed by party leaders."

Following a meeting with Barak Monday night, Meretz leader Yossi Sarid said he believes at the end of the day Shas will be in the coalition. Should that be the case, he told reporters, "Meretz will support Barak from outside the coalition." Sarid said that his party and his voters have full confidence in Barak. Observers said that it was not clear if Sarid's remarks signal a genuine willingness to sit out the government or were merely a negotiating ploy to pressure One Israel.

Shas MK Eli Yishai told The Jerusalem Post that Barak cannot survive unless his party is drafted into the coalition. "Without us the government will be so narrow it won't even get of the ground," he said. Yishai further pledged that should Shas be included in the coalition, it "won't only give public backing to Barak but real support."

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