Interior Minister Eli Yishai and former Shas leader Arye Deri said on Thursday that for the sake of unity within Shas and the good of the public, they both agreed to give up the chairmanship of the party.
The Council of Torah Sages of the Shas movement, led by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, decided to bring Deri back into the party on Wednesday, in a compromise deal by which a triumvirate leadership of Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, Deri and Yishai will take the party into the elections.
Yishai and Deri gave a lengthy joint interview on Channel 2 Thursday acknowledging that there had been great differences between them in the past, but they were now setting these aside at the behest of Yosef and the party’s voters.
“We can’t hide what was in the past, but yesterday began the opening of a fresh page,” Deri said.
Yishai stated that the “joyous reaction of Shas supporters in the streets” after Wednesday’s compromise by which Deri returned to Shas justified the sacrifices that both men made.
Deri said that he saw Shas as a party representing the “have-nots” in a country whose social gaps were widening out of control.
He stated that he did not care if he was 15th or 16th on the Shas candidates list or what ministerial portfolio he received, as long as he could work to help the country’s poor.
Deri answered the question of whether he was worthy to serve in the Knesset again despite his 1999 criminal conviction by saying that the law allowed him to run for the Knesset and the voters would decide if he was worthy.
Channel 10 reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Deri on Thursday suggesting that they cooperate in the upcoming government. Yishai said that neither he nor Deri would take the lead in negotiating the next coalition agreement for Shas, but that “we will all do it.”