Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday met with opposition head and Shinui chairman MK Yosef Lapid, and invited his party to join the Likud’s coalition government. The meeting was the latest in a series Sharon has been conducting since his victory at the Likud Central Committee 10 days ago, when committee members voted against early primaries. The goal of these meetings has been to create a coalition government for the winter session of Knesset ahead of the vote on the 2006 state budget. Lapid told Sharon that since the conclusion of the disengagement, Shinui is no longer obligated to support the government, and said it sees itself in opposition to everything the Likud stands for, including the budget. Lapid said Shunui would be ready to consider joining the government only if the Likud were to meet certain demands, such as drafting legislation for a law on civil marriage, and changing the law governing yeshiva students’ joining the army. Sharon responded that the civil marriage law is still under consideration and that he is ready to examine the possibility of such legislation. Lapid also protested ultra-Orthodox demands to stop Sabbath construction work on the Ganot interchange, and told Sharon that if he wants to make a deal with Shinui, he shouldn’t litter the path with obstacles. In response, Sharon said that Lapid must also consider the rabbis’ stance on the matter. In a meeting with Sharon last week, Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai said his ultra-Orthodox party would consider supporting the budget from outside the government if Sharon meets their demands to reverse aid cutbacks to the lower class. Following the Sharon-Lapid meeting, Yishai said that “in light of Lapid’s oppositionary behavior, the prime minister can relax. Lapid is looking for reasons to support Sharon.” On the subject of Shinui’s calls for civil marriage, Yishai said that “those who have Jewish hearts beating inside them don’t latch onto an initiative as anti-Judaism as civil marriage.” “[Shinui’s] desire to uproot everything that is Jewish is like a carnivorous germ we have to exterminate,” said Yishai. Since Sharon’s Likud Central Committee win, he has rushed to woo all the parties in order to strengthen his coalition in an effort to pass the state budget. Sharon also sought to ensure several political appointments: of Ehud Olmert as permanent finance minister, and of Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim and MK Roni Bar-On as ministers.