Likud Asks Shas to Back Early Elections

Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to ask for his support in bringing about early general elections.

In response, the rabbi said that he intends to convene the party's council of Torah sages in order to formulate Shas' position. At a meeting in Yosef's home in Jerusalem, attended by Likud MKs Silvan Shalom and Gideon Sa'ar, Shas chairman Eli Yishai announced that his party will "continue to examine and consider the options and alternatives to determine what will be best for the citizens of the State of Israel." Yishai added that the party's position will be determined before Rosh Hashanah, next week.

MK Shalom reported that the meeting had been "very good," adding that, "We communicated the importance of holding general elections in the quickest manner, so that we can maintain security and economic stability."

"It isn't possible to establish a coalition without Shas," Shalom said, referring to the task facing the newly elected Kadima party chairwoman, Tzipi Livni. She must recruit a majority of at least 61 MKs to join her coalition in order to avoid early elections and assume the role of prime minister. If Shas declines to join the coalition, she will likely not be able to recruit a majority, and general elections will be held sometime in early 2009.

Shalom concluded that the Likud is holding talks with all the parties in efforts to garner support for early elections.

Livni was holding a late-night meeting with Labor chairman Ehud Barak yesterday. Barak has repeatedly called for the establishment of an emergency unity government.