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Agudah Gets Ok to Join Likud, but Sets Religious Conditions

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The Agudat Yisrael’s Council of Torah Sages gave the green light Wednesday for the Orthodox party to join Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government.

But the move is contingent on certain conditions set by the Agudah, which Likud hopes to settle in time for the Cabinet to approve the coalition agreement at its regular weekly meeting Sunday.

Agudah has demanded appointments to various influential government posts and has set a deadline for the passage of religious legislation.

Bills banning the sale of pork in Israel and tightening already severe restrictions on abortion are ready to be submitted to the Knesset.

Micha Harish, the Labor Party secretary, is in the meantime trying to cast doubt on Likud.

He warned Wednesday that Shamir would renege on his promises, and that Agudah had better “think twice” before joining the government.

Shamir is anxious to solidify Agudah’s four Knesset votes, in order to strengthen his narrow regime.

But even with those votes, the coalition has internal strains.

Shas, Likud’s largest religious partner, is threatening to quit over the continuing investigation of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who is accused of misappropriating government funds.

Other religious factions, like the small Degel HaTorah party, are worried that the agreement with Agudah will infringe on the pact it signed with Likud when Shamir’s government was formed in June.

Shamir met with Degel Knesset member Moshe Gafni on Wednesday to offer assurances.

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