Ariel Attias, Arye Deri gang up on Eli Yishai

Shas leader slams Likud, Labor, Kadima, Israeli Beiteinu politicians for "hacking haredim"; calls to end haredi incitement.

December 20, 2010 21:41
2 minute read.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Eli Yishai 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Shas chairman Eli Yishai faced criticism from a central figure inside his own party for the first time on Monday when his No. 2, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, delivered a scathing attack on him in the presence of Shas MKs.

Yishai has recently been criticized by Haim Amsalem, an unknown freshman MK in Shas, but until now, Attias has been careful not to attack Yishai publicly.

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Attias changed direction on Monday, questioning why instead of fighting for social issues, Yishai took a leading role on scandals that antagonize the public such as conversion, exemptions from the IDF and preventing the expansion of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center due to the presence of ancient graves on the site.

“We need to consider how Shas got such a poor image in eyes of the public,” Attias reportedly said. “We need to do some soul searching about how we became so hated.”

A spokesman for Yishai said he had been at the Shas faction meeting, and he did not hear Attias say such things. Attias’s spokesman said he had not been with his boss and had no idea what he said.

Attias is considered a potential replacement for Yishai at the head of Shas, as is former party leader Arye Deri.

In an interview with Israel Radio on Monday morning, Deri promised Yishai that he would not “take his place,” a statement that was immediately interpreted as a sign that he would form his own party that would compete against Shas in the next election and join Kadima in an effort to bring down the Right.

Deri also made Yishai look bad by taking credit for successful efforts to integrate haredim into the work force.

“When I headed Shas, I started the first effort to encourage haredim to get academic degrees,” Deri said.

“I started with three students. Then we started a special track for kollel students to learn business administration. Now this track has 5,000 students.”

Following Deri’s interview, Yishai immediately called a press conference in which he claimed that he was responsible for bringing haredim into the work force. He said the Israeli public should be thanking him now that 10,000 haredim were pursuing academic studies.

Yishai used the press conference to slam Likud, Kadima, Labor and Israel Beiteinu politicians for their recent attacks on the haredim.

He said parties had started “hacking haredim,” because they were afraid that late Shinui leader Yosef “Tommy” Lapid’s son, journalist Yair Lapid, would form a new party and take away their votes.

“Unfortunately, recently more and more waves of incitement and hatred are directed against the Sephardi observant public,” Yishai said.

“Parties know that it makes news is if they attack haredim and Jewish tradition, so they are mounting campaigns on the backs of the haredim, as if we were in an election year,” he charged. “I call on all the heads of the parties to stop the incitement.”

Yishai called Deri’s interview “uninteresting and irrelevant.”

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