Next interior minister. Yishai
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Following intense negotiations, Likud and Shas finalized a deal overnight Monday that will see the religious party join Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's burgeoning government.
According to the agreement, Shas Chairman and Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor Eli Yishai will stay on as deputy prime minister and will also be appointed minister of interior, while fellow party member Ariel Atias, currently communications minister, will be appointed housing and construction minister.
The deal states that Shas will also be given the religious affairs portfolio and a party member will be appointed a minister in the Prime Minister's Office. In addition, representatives from the haredi party will serve as chairman and deputy chairman of the Knesset's House Committee.
"The State of Israel is facing numerous security-related and socioeconomic challenges, and therefore it is vital that we join forces and establish a broad government," Yishai said after the agreement was announced. "We can face these challenges only with a stable coalition."
Shas' demand for an increase in child welfare payments was also included in the agreement with Likud.
The religious party also agreed to the clauses concerning civil marriage and conversion, which were agreed upon in the framework of Likud's coalition deal with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.
The agreement with Shas further stated that "the status quo regarding issues of religion and state will be maintained" and that the next government will "work towards honoring Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, as well as prohibit any discrimination against religious employees."
As part of the agreement, Likud guaranteed Shas that the next government would uphold the status of the yeshiva students and "examine the claims of an increase in illegal missionary activity in Israel."
Shas was also assured that the status of the rabbinical courts would be preserved.
As for education, the coalition agreement states that the haredi education system will remain independent. The religious educational institutions' budget for 2009 and 2010 will stand at NIS 975 million ($242 million) a year.
Meanwhile, Labor and Likud's negotiating teams are scheduled to meet Monday morning. A senior Labor official said the coalition talks are expected to be "difficult" and that there is "no guarantee Netanyahu will heed all of Labor's demands."