There was talk of cautious optimism amongst Kadima's ranks on Thursday evening after another lengthy negotiation session with Shas on Thursday evening.
Officials familiar with the coalition talks said that the ultra-Orthodox party appears intent on joining the coalition under Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni.
Citing the meeting between Livni and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai, and the discussions held between the parties' negotiator teams, an official close to the prime minister designate said – "you don't sit down for so many hours for no reason."
No significant breakthrough has been reported thus far. There does, however, appear to be some progress in regards to agreeing on a compromise on Shas' demands on child welfare stipends.
Kadima has rejected outright the possibly of earmarking NIS 1.5 billion ($402 million) for the stipends. Shas is aware that Kadima will not be able to meet their demand in full, and both sides seem geared towards finding a compromise for the 2009 budget.
The solution will likely be an NIS 500 million ($134 million) addition to the coming year's budget.
The sides will continue to meet over the coming days.
Livni and Yishai met earlier on Thursday at her Jerusalem office, and agreed to 'speed up' the coalition talks. The two were initially scheduled to meet later Wednesday night, but Yishai was forced to cancel while already en route to Livni's home due to personal reasons.
"There are still differences, but there is a willingness to bridge them," Yishai said after the meeting. He reiterated this demand that "this should be a social we should have a social government and this is not a slogan. We demand that a great part of the money for family pensions will be transferred as part of the 2009 budget and not later."