Shas Seeks ultra-Orthodox Bloc to Counter Lieberman

Religious party hopes joining up with United Torah Judaism will give bloc 16 seats over Lieberman's 15.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said Thursday he is not ruling out the possibility of sitting in a government with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. Nevertheless, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox party is already trying to form a bloc of religious parties to counter Lieberman's anti-religious stance.

"We've already sat [in a coalition] with him," Yishai said of Lieberman during an address to Shas members in Jerusalem. The Shas leader stressed that should the party choose to sit in a government with Yisrael Beiteinu it would stand firmly on its desire to maintain the status quo on issues of religion and state.

He said that the results of Tuesday's general elections showed that the next Knesset would be frail. "We must form a government based on the nationalist camp," Yishai said. "The nation has chosen the right."

Shas is now trying to curb Yisrael Beiteinu's power by cobbling together an ultra-Orthodox bloc of its nine seats with the United Torah Judaism, which won five seats.

A 16 seat ultra-Orthodox bloc would be stronger than Yisrael Beiteinu's 15 and might thus stand preference in Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's search for a coalition partner.