Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that the issue of Jerusalem would not be included in a joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration at the end of the forthcoming Mideast peace conference, senior Shas members told Ynet Monday.
However, despite Shas' demand, the prime minister refused to speak out publicly against Vice Premier Haim Ramon's recent statement that Jerusalem would be divided.
"The prime minister stressed that the division of Jerusalem would not be a part of the declaration of principles. However, he explained that any reference he might make to Ramon's words could undermine Palestinian President Abbas' efforts to control the Palestinian Authority, and the American efforts to promote the diplomatic process," a Shas member said.
He added that Shas would "find it difficult" to remain in the coalition if the declaration of principles include reference to the division of Jerusalem or the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. "The Jerusalem issue is a very sensitive one for Rabbi Ovadia, and he objected to the division of the city even during Barak's term."