Maariv: Shas Rabbi Yosef OKs East J’lem settlement freeze, says US-Israel relationship more important
If Elie Wiesel now wants to run a full page ad in Maariv, I think I can get him a good price: $10,000-$20,000. It’s a tabloid, however, so he’ll have to reformat his Washington Post ad on Jerusalem.
On a more serious note, this is a potentially significant report that should be handled with care. Ben Caspit has a history of sacrificing precision for the sake of sensation and the source, Peres, is an incurable optimist, to put it mildly. Not that one should attach too much value to Eli Yishai’s denial either.
Ben Caspit, Maariv, April 22 2010 [page 6 with front page headline | Hebrew online original here]
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef believes that Israel must rebuild its relationship with the US administration at any price, even if this means stopping to build in Jerusalem.
This emerges from the details of a talk that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef held with President Shimon Peres about three weeks ago. Sources who learned the details of the talk told Ma’ariv yesterday that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef used very clear and sharp language, and this included an explicit statement supporting a temporary halt to construction in Jerusalem.
The meeting between Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and President Peres took place on Friday morning almost three weeks ago, in the framework of Peres’s traditional visits to important leaders on the intermediate days of Passover. In the course of the meeting, Peres reviewed for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef the state of relations between Israel and the US, the depth of the crisis and its harsh ramifications for Israel’s situation and standing.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, say people who were at the meeting, took it hard. Yosef said, “everything must be done to work things out with the Americans, we must pay any price to rebuild the relationship, we must not provoke the nations and kingdoms of the world,” and more in the same vein. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef further said that it is possible to stop construction in Jerusalem for a time and to focus construction efforts in other areas such as central Israel, and that nothing would happen if we started building in Jerusalem again in a few years, after the crisis had passed.
When Peres described for him the compromise proposal (which Peres raised to Netanyahu), whereby Israel would declare a complete construction halt in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also expressed support for this proposal. Peres, the sources say, pointed out that Netanyahu also agreed to this proposal but refused to declare so publicly.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s statements reveal a situation in Shas in which the student, i.e., Eli Yishai, is more extreme than his mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. In response to Ma’ariv’s question, Eli Yishai said yesterday, “this never happened.” The President’s Residence had no comment. The transcript of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s statement was checked and cross referenced, among others, with people who spoke with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef after Peres’s visit. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef confirmed them.
In wake of this, political sources yesterday expressed amazement that every time the subject of Jerusalem came up in the Olmert government, it was said that “Shas will not agree to remain in the government if there is talk about Jerusalem.” They also said that in the meetings that Tzippi Livni held about forming a government in October 2008, Eli Yishai mentioned Jerusalem as a sine qua non, and then too, this was not, in fact, backed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The Shas leader’s comments also have significance from the coalition aspect and the international aspect: Netanyahu always has a good excuse when talking to the Americans about Jerusalem: he always says that his coalition would fall apart if he stopped construction in the capital. Now it turns out, at least according to what Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said three weeks ago, that this assumption is inaccurate.