All in Favor Shas Chair: I'll Fulfill Lieberman's Doctrine

Shas Knesset faction chairman MK Yakov Margi argued passionately yesterday that he would be the one to fulfill the doctrine of Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has announced his resignation from the government.

Lieberman had led an initiative to increase the stability of the system of government, "but it turns out that I am more sensitive than he is to government stability," Margi said.

The coalition was already feeling the effects of its reduction from 78 to 67 MKs, with votes on three bills proposed in the plenum yesterday ending in ties.

In two cases, a 25-25 vote shot down bills proposed by the opposition that would have prohibited cellular companies from giving employers information about employees' cell phone calls. A third tie was over a bill proposed by the coalition's MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) to extend the maximum jail term that can be exchanged for community service from six months to a year.

Next week, MK Yisrael Katz (Likud) is reportedly planning to challenge the coalition by presenting a bill to annex Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Mevasseret Tzion, Beitar Illit and Gush Etzion to Jerusalem.

"Shas says it is remaining in the coalition to protect Jerusalem," Katz said, adding, "It will have to support the bill."

Everyone in the Knesset is waiting to see how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert survives the conclusions of the Winograd report, scheduled to be released at the end of the month. Former coalition chair Avigdor Itzchaky (Kadima) has said that if he cannot make Olmert resign, he will do so himself. But if Olmert continues to prevail, Likud faction head MK Gideon Sa'ar says he expects a daily war of attrition between the opposition and the coalition.

After Yisrael Beiteinu entered the coalition, it enjoyed a huge majority. No-confidence votes became an uninteresting ritual, and life for the coalition leaders became fairly easy. Coalition breakdowns will now be much more frequent. This is because its 67 votes are on paper only. In reality, some 10 lawmakers are on the inside, looking out. This makes the 12 disciplined Shas foot-soldiers even more important.

Shas, according to a source close to its spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is more pleased than ever with this coalition, and does not want to see it fall. "We are immune to pressure from the right," the source said.