Religious party to join Sharon coalition &mdash for now

jerusalem (jps) | United Torah Judaism, a fervently religious political party, will join a coalition with Likud and Labor under Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The party’s inclusion in the coalition is conditional, however, on a three-month “wait-and-see” approach relating to the Likud negotiating team’s promise to provide funding to haredi educational institutions.

United Torah Judaism Knesset members Avraham Ravitz and Moshe Gafni will not fill any positions in the government for the next three months, and their positions will be reassessed at the end of the conditional period. “We are entering the government and not taking any positions for three months. If the government manages to carry out its coalition promises to us within that time, we will consider taking on portfolios,” Ravitz told Israel Army Radio.

The inclusion of the religious party gives Prime Minister Ariel Sharon an important political victory, granting him a parliamentary majority of 66 seats for the first time since the summer.

“Already next week we will present a new government that will lead the nation to security and economic growth and peace. The Likud will rise up to the challenge,” Sharon said at a Likud meeting this week.