Eli Yishai speaking to the press earlier this month - Emil Salman
Eli Yishai speaking to the press earlier this month. Photo by Emil Salman
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Shas is likely to quit the government coalition if the state comptroller forces Interior Minister Eli Yishai to relinquish his post because of his handling of the December 2010 Carmel fire disaster, party sources said on Sunday.

"No one on behalf of Shas will replace party chairman Eli Yishai at the Interior Ministry," commented a close associate of Yishai.

According to an article in Haaretz Sunday, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' soon-to-be-released report on the disaster will recommend that both Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz be removed from their current positions. Lindenstrauss' report is expected to hold Yishai personally responsible for the sorry state of affairs of local fire-fighting services.

Shas sources said yesterday that the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and the members of the Council of Torah Sages would not stand for Yishai's ousting, if indeed the state comptroller recommends it.

The sources added, however, that if Yishai was removed from his role as interior minister, on the recommendation of Lindenstrauss, it could benefit the party at the polls.

"In such an event, Yishai will focus on his role as Shas chairman and will travel the length and breadth of the country to hold election rallies," one party source said. "And Shas will come to the election campaign strengthened.

The voters are likely to perceive Yishai as a victim if he is ousted, since he warned and warned but failed to receive the money. Presenting him as a victim is likely to help Shas at the upcoming polls against Aryeh Deri's new party."

The Shas sources added that at present, Yishai is preparing for the release of the state comptroller's report and expected to receive a draft next week. The report itself is scheduled for release in a month or so.

"Yishai will go all out against the state comptroller if he recommends ousting him from the Interior Ministry," added the Shas source, noting that the party has not ruled out the option of petitioning the High Court of Justice against the state comptroller, as well as launching a media assault on him.

The party sources also slammed the Haaretz report and the fact that information from Lindenstrauss' report was leaked prior to its official release.

"Leaks coming out of the State Comptroller's Office are illegal, and this didn't happen in the past," said one Shas source.