Rabbi Yosef orders Shas MKs to vote against pullout
Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz: Rabbi's comments make impossible any chance for Labor and Shas to sit in the same government.
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ordered the party's 11 lawmakers on Saturday to vote against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan in next week's Knesset vote.
"There is no question that you must vote against it," Yosef said during his weekly sermon. "It is a real danger to the people of Israel," he added later, pounding his fist on a table.
Labor faction leader Dalia Itzik said her party was sorry to hear about Yosef's decision, but added that the disengagement plan would nevertheless be approved by the Knesset by a large majority, for the benefit of Israel's citizens.
Fellow Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz said that the rabbi's call for MKs to vote against the [disengagement] plan made impossible any chance of Labor and Shas sitting in the same government.
Yosef also discussed the matter of refusal by Israel Defense Forces soldiers to participate in the evacuation of settlements. "Despite the fact that I object to the [disengagement] plan, we must retain our unity and we cannot refuse [orders]," Yosef said, and warned of the possibility of civil war.
Likud rebel leader MK Uzi Landau met with Yosef on Thursday in an attempt to persuade him to oppose disengagement. Landau discussed the security and political drawbacks to the plan, which he said is dangerous and harmful to unity.
The meeting was the second between the two men, who had met prior to the Likud rank-and-file referendum. Landau said Yosef seemed well versed in the plan's details, and asked questions. Shas chairman Eli Yishai, along with MK Shlomo Benizri and Rafael Pinhasi, were also present at the meeting. Yosef told Landau he would make his decision after considering all angles.
MK Zvi Hendel (National Union) will call on Yosef on Sunday to oppose disengagement.
Sources in Shas said Thursday that although most Shas MKs would vote against disengagement based on their political beliefs, those closest to Yosef seemed to be leaning toward abstention. The latter group explained its position by saying that at any rate, when the disengagement plan passes in the Knesset, the Likud will no longer appear as a more right-wing option than Shas.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Thursday with Yishai in an attempt to persuade Shas to support his disengagement plan. After the meeting, Yishai said he stressed to Sharon support for "painful concessions" by Yosef, although there is a small likelihood the party would back disengagement. However, sources in Shas said Thursday that its MKs were likely to abstain, rather than oppose, the disengagement law when it comes up for next week's Knesset vote.
Yishai said he stressed there is no connection between the Shas vote on disengagement and the possibility it would join the coalition at any particular stage.
Yishai said Sharon told him he understood the internal struggle of Yosef, and the Shas chairman stressed that leaving parts of the land of Israel was "clearly a matter of halakha [Jewish law]," and that in this matter "the rabbi has no other considerations."