Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid accused Tuesday United Torah Judaism leaders with attempting to drive Shinui party away through laying concerning the alleged agreement with Likud over civil marriages and Yehisva drafts.

‘Gafni and Ravitz apparently haven’t internalized the commandment ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,’ and are trying to blow hot air balloons in hope of driving Shinui away,’ Lapid said.

Likud-UTJ Close to Sign; Shinui Angry; Labor-Likud in Deadlock

Coalition talks between Likud and United Torah Judaism (UJT) could be concluded with an agreement this week after Likud accepted to remove two controversial laws from the present coalition agreement.

The Likud has agreed to maintain the status quo on two controversial issues that are important to the ultra-Orthodox party: the Tal Law amendment on conscription to the army, and the law recognizing civil marriage.

Likud negotiators clarified Monday that agreement did not include any promise to cancel the two laws.

Such an agreement is expected to anger Likud’s main partner the secular Shinui party.

The first reaction to the agreement came from Interior Minister Avraham Poraz (Shinui)

‘Every agreement that has been reached in the past with the NRP and the Likud on religion-state issues must obligate all future coalition partners,’ said Poraz.

Likud negotiators said it would be possible to reach a compromise between the positions of UTJ and of Shinui that would allow for removing the two religion-state issues from the coalition agreement.

Meanwhile, Labor-Likud talks are facing a deadlock after labor rejected a compromise on the 2005 state budget approval.

Likud insisted on bringing the budget for cabinet approval on Sunday, but offered to accelerate the coalition talks to allow labor to join further cabinet deliberations to take place between the first and second readings in the Knesset.

Labor refused to set a date for a next meeting, demanding that the draft budget be put on hold until Labor joins the government and has a chance to influence a number of areas it considers problematic.

Labor MK Dalia Itzik denied a collapse in the talks, but affirmed that Labor would not diverge from its demands for budget changes.

MK Benjamin Ben -Eliezer expressed pessimism, accusing Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with adding difficulties to block Labor from joining the cabinet.

Many labor MKs called a halt to talks with the Likud.

The Likud internal court decision to discuss the issue of Labor joining the cabinet in a Likud central committee session to be held on August 18, is expected to further complicate coalition talks.

Most of the Likud party central committee members are opposed to a coalition with Labor.

Few Labor leaders warned that Likud was using talks with labor in order to pressure the UTJ party to join the coalition.

As minister Uzi Landau considered the court ruling a victory to disengagement opponents, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon confirmed that the Likud constitution does not require a central committee approval for including other parties in the government coalition.

‘Every coalition agreement signed with the Labor party is illegitimate and void… the prime minister, ministers and MKs are representatives of a movement and are bound by its decisions,’ Landau said.

‘The Likud Central Committee has no authority to decide on the entry of the Labor Party or any other party into a coalition,’ Sharon answered.


Sharon pointed that without labor it will be difficult to implement the disengagement plan unilaterally.

Yet, Sharon stood in full support to Finance Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and his economic plan, warning labor that there is little room for changes in the budget.