Shas Warns Education Appointment Could Kill Deal

Shas officials are adamantly opposed to Professor Uriel Reichman being appointed education minister.

Senior Shas officials said in private discussions with Labor and Kadima that if Reichman, a former Shinui activist, was appointed to the position promised him by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it could spell a return to the coalition crises that plagued the cabinet when Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid served in the post.

President Moshe Katsav Thursday officially tapped Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to form the next government.

Shas termed statements by Reichman about the ultra-Orthodox "problematic," and warned that appointing him would necessitate demands by Shas to prevent Reichman from undermining its education system.

Shas is not very thrilled either with the second candidate for the post, Labor's Professor Yuli Tamir; but Shas officials said that at least Tamir had supported expanding the school-lunch program to ultra-Orthodox schools.

Kadima sources said they believed Labor would ultimately get the education portfolio.

Haim Ramon, meanwhile, is Ehud Olmert's preferred candidate for justice minister. According to senior Kadima members, Olmert wants to keep the justice portfolio in-house and wants Ramon to occupy an influential cabinet post.

Official coalition talks open this Sunday at the Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel in Ramat Gan. The Kadima team will meet first with Labor, followed by Shas, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. On Monday, talks are scheduled with the Pensioners Party, United Torah Judaism and Meretz.

Olmert's office announced Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would meet with the prime minister-designate as soon as the government was formed. Mubarak telephoned Olmert Thursday to congratulate him as the designated premier.