Ffrom THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 23, 2009, by Gil Hoffman:
Shas became the second party to join Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's government Sunday night, Army Radio reported just after midnight.
According to the report, Shas chairman Eli Yishai will take the Interior Ministry portfolio as part of the agreement.
The deal also guarantees the Shas the Construction and Housing, and Religious Services portfolios. The party gave up its attempt to appoint a minister for haredi education and instead will receive a minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office.
Netanyahu now has a coalition of 53 MKs in hand from Likud, Israel Beiteinu and Shas. Coalition talks will continue on Monday with Labor, United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi.
The party will also have a deputy minister in the Finance Ministry.
Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert lashed out during a cabinet meeting at the possible political alliance between Netanyahu and Labor chairman Ehud Barak...The Likud expressed outrage at Olmert for interfering with Netanyahu's efforts to form a national-unity government with Labor by the April 5 deadline ..."Olmert's hatred for Barak has made him go insane," a senior Likud source said. "He cares more about preventing Barak from remaining defense minister than about what is good for the country, which is a national-unity government as soon as possible."
Barak's office accused Olmert of a "pathetic attempt to harm the defense minister in any way possible and at any price" and called on Olmert to "leave quietly." Sources close to Barak also expressed anger at Olmert for trying to persuade Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog not to support Labor joining the government. Herzog's office confirmed a report by Channel 1's Ayala Hasson that Olmert had spoken to the minister outside the cabinet meeting and told him not to back Barak's effort to bring Labor into Netanyahu's government.
Herzog, who is Barak's No. 2 in Labor, remains undecided, and his decision is key ahead of Tuesday's decisive party convention. In a lengthy meeting with Barak on Sunday, Herzog told him that since February's election, he had leaned toward entering the opposition. He issued a series of demands on socioeconomic and diplomatic issues and requested in-depth answers in the coalition agreement that Labor and Likud would draft. Herzog's associates would not reveal any of the conditions, but stressed that they had nothing to do with cabinet portfolios. They denied a Channel 10 report that he had asked for Labor's second-best portfolio.
The report said that to satisfy Herzog, the Labor portion of the former Labor and Social Affairs portfolio could be returned to his present portfolio from its current home in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
Barak appointed a coalition negotiating team on Sunday composed of Histadrut chief Ofer Eini, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and attorney Alon Gellert, who served as chief legal adviser to the Prime Minister's Office under Barak. Barak met with the team on Sunday night and briefed them about agreements he had already reached with Netanyahu in their recent closed conversations.
The team is expected to meet with the Likud's negotiators on Monday morning...