Shas reported notable progress in its coalition negotiations with Kadima on Thursday. Sources within the party sound optimistic for the first time since talks began with representatives for Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni.
The catalyst? A new veritable proposal the Kadima chairwoman has put on the table in an effort to resolve the disagreement regarding stipends for children. The new deal refers to the stipends as 'family benefits.'
The proposals made thus far have mostly focused on monetary alternatives to the controversial stipends, including negative income tax and welfare aid through means not directly funded by taxpayers.
"This is the first time we've seen a willingness to provide the funds directly to those in need and not just all sorts of alternatives," said sources within Shas.
Both parties stressed the negotiations would try to strike middle ground between the opposing viewpoints so as to continue to provide needy families with some level of support. The method of distribution has yet to be decided on, and there are several options currently being discussed.
Livni's associates said Kadima presented Shas with a multi-million shekel welfare proposal the first time
the two sides sat down. Shas says it is seeking to ensure that the funds would not only be allocated for ultra-Orthodox families but for other publics as well.
"It's important for us that this money not lead people to stay at home. We want to encourage people to join the workforce, that's why it's important for us to promote the negative income tax for instance," said Livni associates.
Kadima sources said Shas appears willing to join the coalition and be a part of Livni's government. Shas' representatives to the negotiations, said the sources, "weren't there to mess around."