"We have to be in the (next) coalition and are seeking any way (to do this)," Shas leader Eli Yishai told the Kol Berama radio station, which is affiliated with the religious party.
As the opening of the coalition negotiations nears, the pressure within Shas appears to be growing. "We are willing to be in the (next) even without ministers if a solution can be found for the yeshiva world. We can be in the coalition without being in the (Cabinet). Everyone must realize that we do not seek (ministerial portfolios)," Yishai said.
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The Shas leader said the party is trying to avoid a "rift in the nation" and wants to "preserve the world of the Torah. I hope the prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) will understand the dangers, reach a bold decision and convince (Yesh Atid Chairman) Yair Lapid that the world of the Torah is important to us."
Later Thursday, Yishai explained his surprising statement. "Studying Torah is an important value that has safeguarded the nation of Israel before the state's inception," he told Ynet. "I do not want a rift in the nation, and I am willing to give up my ministerial post for this as long as there is no law that will hurt Torah studies."
Yishai clarified that this was not the official party line but his own personal opinion.
On Thursday evening the Admor of Gur, one of the spiritual leaders of the United Torah Judaism faction, paid a rare visit to the home of Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yishai addressed the talks between the factions on the creation of an ultra-Orthodox political bloc, saying "In the past Shas joined the coalition without UTJ, but this time we are together. This problem applies to the entire Torah world," he told Ynet.
Akiva Novick is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent