Shas spiritual leader seriously ill; Deri halts coalition talks to be at his side

Rabbi Shimon Baadani, 94, head of ultra-Orthodox party’s Council of Torah Sages, sedated and on ventilation in hospital

Rabbi Shimon Baadani, member of the Shas Sages Council, at his home in the city of Bnei Brak, on September 28, 2017. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90/File)
Rabbi Shimon Baadani, member of the Shas Sages Council, at his home in the city of Bnei Brak, on September 28, 2017. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90/File)

The spiritual leader of the Shas party became seriously ill on Monday, prompting chairman Aryeh Deri to break off negotiations aimed at forming a coalition government so that he could be by his side.

Rabbi Shimon Baadani, 94, is the head of the party’s Council of Torah Sages, a panel of rabbis that guides Shas.

Baadani was taken to the Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak where he was said to be sedated and on ventilation.

Deri later tweeted that he was praying for Baadani’s recovery, describing him as “in a serious condition and in need of mercy from heaven.”

Deri was holding coalition talks with presumed prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when Baadani suddenly became ill, and left to visit the hospital.

The development came at a critical moment in talks, with Netanyahu reportedly poised to remove an impasse that was holding up progress toward forming a government.

Earlier in the evening reports said that Deri had agreed to accept the position of interior minister instead of finance minister, which would go to Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party. Smotrich had been determined to receive the Defense Ministry, but was said to eventually agree to take over the Treasury instead.

With those two ministers assigned positions, the process of dividing up other ministries among prospective coalition partners looked smoother, but Baadani’s sudden illness caused another delay.

Netanyahu is seeking to swiftly install a new government after his Likud party led a bloc of right-wing and religious parties to victory in the November 1 elections.

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