Arye Deri 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Shas leader Arye Deri made it official on Wednesday when he announced that he would return to politics in the next election.
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Speaking to interviewer Ilana Dayan on a panel at the threeday Presidents Conference in Jerusalem, Deri said he planned to lead a party that would be neither religious nor Sephardi.
“In the next election, I will head a party but not one that will allow me to represent my voters,” he said. “I am on the way back to politics in the next election, with God’s help. I can’t say yet in what framework, but I made the decision over the past year.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Deri did not announce that he would head a new party and he purposely left open the possibility that he could return to the chairmanship of Shas in place of current head Eli Yishai.
“Shas doesn't have to have the same face it has today,” Deri said tellingly.
Unlike in 1984 when he helped found Shas, Deri said Israel no longer needed a party to defend Sephardim against discrimination. Rather, it needs a party to unify the public.
“The main reason I want to come back is that I feel I can use my experience to contribute and give hope to the citizens of Israel that despite all the disagreements, we can still live together,” he said.
“In Israel, you cannot have influence without political power, so I want
to head a party not just for the Sephardi population but one that can
unify the general public.”
Not hiding his dovish views, he said it was wrong to miss out on a
chance for peace with Syria in 1993 and that he never voted in favor of
military action during his years as a minister.
Sources close to Deri said he was surprised by the media attention his
speech received. His spokesman said Deri had said nothing new.
Several top political figures, including current and former ministers
from numerous parties, have expressed interest in running with Deri in
the next election.
Polls have predicted that a party headed by him would win seven Knesset seats competing against Shas.
Shas officials mocked Deri for “making weekly announcements about a political comeback.”
They said the only way for him to come back to the chairmanship of Shas
was via a decision by the party’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,
who still supports Yishai.
Shas officials also said Deri should stop speaking to Yosef via the press.
A Shas official compared Deri to a man who kept praying to win the
lottery at the Western Wall until a heavenly voice sounded, “Nudnik, buy
a ticket already.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who drafted a bill that would block Deri from
returning to politics, said anyone convicted of crimes reflecting
ethical violations should not be permitted to run for Knesset.
Far-right activist Baruch Marzel said he blamed Deri for all the deaths
that resulted from the Oslo diplomatic process, which he said Deri
helped pass in the Knesset.
Marzel said he was “a criminal who should not be permitted to return to the scene of the crime.”
Michal Toiba contributed to this report.