10/24/2008, 00.00
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Limit set on negotiations over Tzipi Livni's government

The prime minister-designate has given an ultimatum, expiring on Sunday, for a decision by the ultra-Orthodox parties. Shas asks for extension of rabbinical courts' jurisdiction, to include civil disputes between couples. The request was refused when Olmert was in office.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni and the ultra-Orthodox parties are locked in a showdown. The current foreign minister yesterday issued an ultimatum: "The time has come," she said. "I have spoken to President Shimon Peres and told him I'll reach a conclusion by Sunday: general elections or negotiations." "Kadima's negotiating team feels it has exhausted the possibilities. We can continue talking, but we won't be able to offer any more than we already have to Shas, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Gil." For his part, the coordinator of talks for Kadima, Tzahi Hanegbi, tells the Jerusalem Post: "We feel the offers we have made are balanced and fair, despite the disappointment the Gil Party and UTJ might feel."

The ultimatum appears to be aimed at Shas in particular, which continues to delay giving a definitive response to whether it will support a new government. "We've made final offer to Shas" is the headline in the Jerusalem Post, while Yedioth Ahronoth calls Sunday the decisive day.

But according to Haaretz, Livni, in addition to issuing an ultimatum, is believed to be studying the possibility of granting the request of the ultra-Orthodox, who want to extend the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts to civil disputes between couples.

The request to extend the powers of the courts was previously made by Shas in 2006, to prime minister Ehud Olmert, but it was rejected. Olmert, justice minister Daniel Friedmann, and social affairs minister Isaac Herzog had objected that this would violate the secular public's rights and undermine the status quo.

If Livni were to decide to grant the request of the ultra-Orthodox, she would have to face opposition from the Labor Party.

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