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Monday, 7 August, 2000, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Israeli press condemns 'cursing Rabbi'
Israeli cabinet room
Barak needs Shas' support if he is to bolster his cabinet
Israeli commentators were divided about the political impact of the outspoken remarks by Shas leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, about the Holocaust victims and the Palestinians.

Some suggested that the weakness of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's political position left him little option but to resume negotiations on bringing Shas back into the governing coalition.

Time for humble pie

Israel's second-largest circulation newspaper, Ma'ariv, said that "despite all the crises with Shas", Barak was still open to negotiations to bring it back into government.

It quoted unnamed senior Israeli ministers as saying: "We are ready to eat humble pie from Shas because in a simple arithmetic calculation, without Shas there is no prospect of continuing the peace process".

The report said the only move the prime minister took in the wake of Shas spiritual leader's remarks about the Holocaust was "temporarily to postpone the opening of the negotiations with Shas until the fury over the rabbi's latest remarks passes".


Other commentators were scathing about the possible impact of Rabbi Yosef's remarks concerning the Palestinians.

Under the headline "Brainless", an article by Sima Qadmon in the largest circulation newspaper, Yedi'ot Aharonot, stated that "what should give Barak insomnia is not what Rabbi Ovadya Yosef said about the sanctity of the dead, but his ignominy of the living..."

"The prime minister's trust in somebody who made those remarks about the Palestinians, about our life with them as neighbours, and the prime minister's senseless conduct, is what arouses deep surprise," Qadmon wrote.

"It is difficult to understand how the government is still fawning all over such a person."

Call for fresh polls

Another commentary in Ma'ariv entitled "Spitting Room Only" urged Barak to drop any idea of holding further negotiations with Shas.

He has to call elections... there is no other choice

Ma'ariv commentator

"If Ehud Barak chases after the cursing rabbi, from this moment on it will look like an inexplicable capitulation, a loss of all self-respect, request for forgiveness in the hope of receiving the backing of Knesset seats that will give the government and its ministers a few more months of life, if that," the paper wrote.

"Barak must forget Shas. He must not face again the humiliations that await him in coalition negotiations which will not lead anywhere... Now he has to call elections, not because that is what he and all of us need, but because there is no other choice."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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04 Aug 00 | Middle East
Barak's breathing space
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