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Party Rejoins Sharon Government

June 04, 2002|From Reuters

JERUSALEM — Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas Party formally rejoined Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government Monday, broadening his ruling majority two weeks after he fired Shas ministers for voting against an austerity plan.

Parliament ratified the return of Shas' four ministers to the Cabinet by a vote of 54 to 24, and they were then sworn in. With the support of Shas' 17 legislators, the government will control 77 of the 120 seats in parliament.

In a move hailed by many Israelis opposed to decades of government funding for religious schools and large Orthodox families, Sharon fired Shas' ministers May 20 for voting against an emergency financial plan in a first reading.

Israeli media reported that under a compromise deal that paved the way for its return, Shas would be allowed to raise objections to the plan in a parliamentary committee preparing it for the next round of voting.

Shas, a self-declared champion of Israel's poor, had said it could not support a law that would cut welfare subsidies and raise taxes.

But Sharon stood his ground, saying he would soldier on at the head of a narrow government because the austerity plan was vital to healing an Israeli economy reeling under recession and the costs of combating a Palestinian uprising for independence.

Sharon also ejected a smaller ultra-Orthodox coalition partner, United Torah Judaism, two weeks ago for voting against the emergency package. The party has not said whether it would now follow Shas back into the government.

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