JERUSALEM (Nov. 8)
The ultra-Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party officially quit the Likud-led unity government coalition Wednesday, even though Likud appears to have acceded to its demands.
It acted on instructions issued two weeks ago by the Council of Sages, the party’s governing body.
But the Agudah said it would return to the fold after a two-month “trial period,” provided the ruling Likud bloc makes good on promises it is said to have made when the Agudah joined the newly formed coalition in December 1988.
Nor does it seem Likud need worry that the party will align with Labor.
Avraham Verdiger, one of its five Knesset members, told reporters that the Agudah would not be receptive to overtures from the Labor Party to form a narrowly-based coalition to replace the existing government.
That has been worrisome for Likud because of the strong possibility that its coalition with Labor will soon founder because of differences over the peace process. If the Agudah defected to Labor, it could have a domino effect on the three other religious parties in the coalition.
Accordingly, Likud is said to have agreed to a series of demands by the Agudah. It will defer for the duration of the Knesset’s current term any action on much-desired electoral reform legislation and a civil rights bill, both in advanced stages of preparation.
It will also seek to enact tougher regulations against billboard advertising deemed lewd by Agudah, and it will increase the government’s subsidies of ultra-Orthodox schools and cultural institutions.
Furthermore, Likud has agreed to let the Agudah resume control of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. It had been under the charge of Agudah Knesset member Moshe Feldman, who resigned as deputy minister last month.
A second Agudah deputy minister, most likely veteran Knesset member Menahem Porush, would be attached to the Prime Minister’s Office.