Rivlin Rivals Peres for Shas Support

The Shas leadership is scheduled to meet this evening for what is expected to be a decision requiring that all party MKs vote for Shimon Peres in the presidential election.

Such a decision will greatly boost the Kadima candidate's chances of winning the election.

Likud will follow the wording of the Shas decision closely, hoping it will let MKs wishing to vote for the Likud candidate, MK Reuven Rivlin, to do so.

However, a senior Shas source said yesterday that the statement would leave no room for doubt. Rivlin has already asked Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef not to issue an order requiring the party's 12 MKs to vote for a particular candidate. He said he was "certain Shas will vote for me."

In an interview with the ultra-Orthodox weekly Mishpacha, Rivlin said he was sorry Shas was inclined to vote as a bloc for Peres, but said he "believed" that Rabbi Yosef would grant his request to allow the party's MKs to vote independently.

"If the Council of Sages decides to support a specific candidate, none of our MKs will vote differently," a senior Shas source told Haaretz in response. "What we did seven years ago was bad enough, and we will not repeat that. There is a clear inclination in favor of Peres," he added, referring to Shas' betrayal of Peres during the last presidential election. Likud candidate Moshe Katsav won that election.