Eli Yishai- Tomer Appelbaum
Eli Yishai Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party is expected to abstain in a cabinet vote today and thus enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gain approval for a new temporary settlement construction freeze, according to Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

In the past Yishai said that Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, had ordered him to "steadfastly oppose the freeze in every way possible," but yesterday he announced that he and his faction colleague, Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias, will not attend the vote on the freeze, allowing Netanyahu to pass it.

In recent months Yishai expressed his absolute opposition to extending the freeze on settlement construction and called for standing up to U.S. pressure on the issue.

However, Atias said in recent weeks that his party would not undermine any attempt by Netanyahu to reinstate the freeze.

Yishai said yesterday at the cabinet meeting that "if in the letter of the U.S. President it is made clear that there will be immediate construction in Jerusalem, and following 90 days it will be possible to build everywhere without limits, we will consider abstaining."

If Shas does abstain from the vote, this will be the second time that the prime minister has managed to pass a construction freeze with tacit Shas support. In the previous vote, a year ago, two Shas MKs left the cabinet meeting, despite their declared opposition to the move, and thus allowed a 10-month freeze.