Likud Looks for Ways to Satisfy UTJ Without Giving It Housing

Likud coalition negotiators met yesterday with United Torah Judaism representatives, seeking ways to satisfy the ultra-Orthodox party's demands without giving it the Housing Ministry as well as the Knesset Finance Committee chairmanship, which it has already promised the party.

At the meeting at Kfar Maccabiah, Likud offered the five-member UTJ faction the Social Affairs Ministry or the Health Ministry, but UTJ chairman Yaakov Litzman said his party was insisting on one of three portfolios: religious affairs, housing or deputy education for yeshivas and ultra-Orthodox education.

In response to Likud's explanation that Shas had been promised these portfolios, Litzman said Shas should give one up.

"Shas cannot sweep up the whole pot," Litzman said.

Likud and UTJ are to meet again today to discuss appointments, laws, yeshiva funding and child allowances.

Manjor conflicts loom, even over the already promised post of Finance Committee chairman. Litzman, who held the post in the past, is up against MK Moshe Gafni, of UTJ's Degel Hatorah faction.

Litzman, of the party's Agudat Yisrael faction, met yesterday with MK Meir Porush, also of Agudat Yisrael, to garner the latter's support for his chairmanship, despite bad blood between the two over the Jerusalem mayoral elections.

Litzman would not say whether he had won Porush's support but called the meeting "good."