Ultra-Orthodox party Shas is on the verge of signing an agreement with the Likud to join the coalition, with the party’s three leaders being rewarded with ministerial posts, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday night.
According to the unsourced report, Eli Yishai will be appointed head of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, Aryeh Deri will be assigned the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and Ariel Atias will be appointed Energy and Water Resources Minister.
The three jointly run the party as a triumvirate.
The report comes a day after Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua became the first party to join the coalition, and amid reports of stalled negotiations with the Yesh Atid and Jewish Home parties.
Yishai denied the reports regarding the positions that the party heads are expected to fill and said that no terms had yet been agreed upon. “We did not talk about portfolios, I’ve heard the rumors,” Yishai told Channel 10.
Yishai also told the station that the main issues discussed in the coalition negotiations between Shas and the Likud were a universal military or service draft that would include the ultra-Orthodox and the upcoming budget. He said resolving the draft issue was the block before the party would sign on a coalition deal.
Shas’s entrance into the coalition would give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nascent government 48 seats — Likud-Beytenu 31; Hatnua 6; Shas 11 — 13 shy of a Knesset majority.
Should the party enter, it would complicate negotiation efforts with Yesh Atid, which has demanded the government commit to a plan that would see the ultra-Orthodox drafted with the rest of the population as a condiiton for entering the government.
On Tuesday, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid met with Yishai in order to possibly coordinate a joint entry to the government. “It was a friendly meeting,” Yishai said following the meeting, which was set up by his own request, “but there is a chasm between us.”
According to Channel 2, Netanyahu would prefer to bring Yesh Atid and Jewish Home into the government before signing with Shas.
Netanyahu met with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday. Likud officials claimed that Kadima demanded the defense portfolio, in exchange for joining the coalition. Kadima officials denied discussing portfolios and the meeting ended with no results.