With elections called, the long-simmering issue of former Shas leader Arye
Deri’s possible return to the party boiled over on Wednesday.
swirled around possible permutations to the faction if he returned, following
Channel 2’s Tuesday report that Deri was set to become party chairman once more,
while current chairman Eli Yishai would keep his position as the most senior
Shas minister in any future coalition.
However, a party source told The
Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the report was inaccurate and that “nothing has
been decided” as to who would lead the party into the elections.
source also warned that numerous Shas “insiders” would put out differing
possible outcomes of the party’s labyrinthine internal struggles to the media,
to try to spin the issue for the interests of their particular
He conceded, however, that “all possibilities are open” and
that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who holds ultimate sway over the
faction, would make the decision, most likely within the next 10
Haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat claimed on Wednesday night that
Deri had already agreed to return to the party, with a decision on who would
formally lead the party expected next week.
A separate Shas insider close
to Yosef told the Post that the different reports most likely originated with
Deri’s camp as part of a message indicating he was prepared to return to Shas
even if the leadership were split and he were not the political faction’s
He also reiterated that there had been no decision yet
and that such a decision would come from Yosef and the Council of Torah Sages,
the rabbinical body the Shas spiritual leader leads that deliberates on party
Back in May, when elections were nearly called before a last
minute national unity deal between Likud and Kadima, Deri was reported as being
on the verge of forming his own political party. His associate repeated similar
comments last week, and Channel 10 reported on Wednesday night that Deri had in
mind several prominent public figures from different fields if efforts to return
to Shas failed.
Yosef promised Deri in 1999 that he would return to the
post of leader after his stint in prison. Deri, who founded Shas in 1984,
served 22 months of a three-year jail term from 2000-2002 for accepting $155,000
in bribes during his tenure as Interior Ministry director-general and then as
According to the source close to Yosef, the decision
over the Shas leadership will be made not according to who is likely to gain the
most Knesset seats in the coming election, but on the basis of perceived loyalty
to the spiritual leader and the Council of Torah Sages.
listens and adheres to the opinions and decisions of the rabbis,” he said,
“perhaps more so than Aryeh.”
He added that Yosef “holds much esteem for
Eli, he loves him dearly and he is his right hand.”
In his opinion, the
source said, a return to the party on Deri’s part would not damage Yishai’s
Separately Yishai said on Wednesday that he would have
no problem joining a coalition with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.