PM, Shas Leader Meet to Discuss Presidential Elections, Coalition

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef meets secretly with Dalia Itzik; TA Mayor Huldai urges Rabbi Lau not to run for president.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Wednesday morning to discuss coalition-related issues and the upcoming June 13 presidential elections.

The two held a 25-minute meeting, discussing the security situation in Gaza as well.

Rabbi Yosef expressed his concern over the heated situation, and told the prime minister that all resources should be invested into securing the residents of Sderot, emphasizing that "we must act wisely."

Shas sources said that the spiritual leader told Olmert that "the situation in Sderot is difficult, children are suffering and living in fear; the situation deserves a solution."

The leaders also talked about children and senior citizen governmental budgets. Rabbi Yosef reminded the prime minister of the coalition agreements where he had promised Shas to return a portion of the budget cuts from the slashed children/senior funds.

With regard to the upcoming presidential election, Yosef told Olmert that Shimon Peres is a respected candidate, but that he would have to discuss the matter with Shas' Council of Torah Sages.

Itzik meets secretly with Shas spiritual leaderOn Tuesday it was reported that Acting President Dalia Itzik met secretly last Friday in Jerusalem with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, for a conversation that touched on the presidential vote, among other issues.

Sources in Shas said that Itzik was looking for support from Yosef for her own presidential bid, in the event that Peres decides not to run.

Aides to Vice Premier Shimon Peres said they were surprised to hear of Itzik's meeting with Yosef.

Itzik and Peres met on Sunday to discuss Peres' presidential hopes. Peres reportedly told the acting president that he intended to run but had not yet made an official announcement on the matter.

T.A. Mayor Huldai urges Rabbi Lau not to run for presidencyOn Tuesday night, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai came to the home of the city's chief rabbi, former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, and pleaded with him not to submit his name as a presidential candidate. On Sunday, a delegation of rabbis and religious judges visited Lau's home and made the same request.

Huldai told Lau that since the latter became municipal chief rabbi two years ago, a sense of unity has bound together Tel Aviv's various communities and the city's religious council and chief rabbinate are operating smoothly and calmly.

"The move to another position, however high and exalted and respected, is liable to send the religious system in the city into a superfluous and harmful tailspin," Huldai reportedly told Lau.

For his part, Lau reportedly responded to Huldai that people from all sectors of society had expressed a desire that he represent them in the President's Residence but emphasized that he had not announced his candidacy nor done anything to promote his election.