Livni. Ready to pay
Yishai. Still not pleased
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Livni ready to give haredim close to NIS 1 billion
Price tag for getting Shas, United Torah Judaism to join new government continues to rise, now amounting to almost twice the sum discussed when coalition negotiations began. Livni associate: These talks are more repulsive than we ever could have imagined
As the days left for the formation of a new government are running out, pressure is taking its toll. At the start of the coalition negotiations, Kadima officials spoke of a sum of NIS 500 million (about $128.9 million) that would be offered to the ultra-Orthodox parties, but it now appears that prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni has gone out of her way by offering Shas and United Torah Judaism a total of almost NIS 1 billion ($257.7 million).
This seems not to be enough, however, as the proposal was rejected by Shas.
Livni's associates appeared hopeless Wednesday night. "These negotiations are more repulsive than we ever could have imagined," one of them said.
The Kadima and Shas negotiation teams are expected to meet again Thursday, after Shas Chairman Eli Yishai rejected the Kadima offer on Wednesday night.
Sources in the haredi party said that Yishai had consulted Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, before deciding to reject the offer.
Yishai warned the Kadima chairwoman's associates not to threaten his party with a narrow government. "They had better not put a gun to our head and had better not threaten us with ultimatums. If Livni presents a narrow government on Monday, we'll vote against it."
Kadima's negotiation team also met Wednesday with UTJ representatives. Sources in the ruling party said that despite the disagreements with Shas, an understanding with UTJ is possible.
At the end of the meeting, the haredi party's representatives went to consult their rabbis. A Kadima source said that the UTJ representatives were impressed by the offer they were given and said that it was decent.
On Wednesday afternoon, Kadima's negotiating team also met with Meretz officials. Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said progress had been made after Kadima agreed to meet some of his party's demands, which include the insurance of retirement funds in light of the financial crisis, and the allotment of additional funds to day care facilities.
Oron told Ynet he had received the impression that Livni was interested in adding Meretz to the government. One of Livni's associates said that "there is no reason that Meretz shouldn't be part of the coalition."
Kadima officials also met with representatives of the Pensioners' Party, who presented a list of their own demands.