Arye Deri, one of the three chairmen of the Shas Party, revealed dovish views on
the peace process in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, calling
for a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
for an interim agreement in which Israel would withdraw from parts of the West
Bank without evacuating settlements has come in the past from politicians on the
Center-Left, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Kadima leader Shaul
Mofaz, but never from the leader of a party that for many years was considered
“Shas is not Right or Left,” Deri said. “We ask rabbis what to
do and we go by what they say. We aren’t nationalist. We believe Israel is ours
because God gave it to us. I don’t believe I am an occupier. Our rabbis will
decide what is best to do to avoid blood being spilled.”
When asked if
Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef regretted having the party abstain from voting on
the Oslo Accords in 1993, Deri said Yosef has written that the accord did not
prove itself and led to terrorist attacks. He said Yosef currently does not
believe there is a partner on the Palestinian side for negotiations.
rabbi believes we should not pursue a final-status agreement,” Deri said. “He is in favor of
pursuing longterm interim agreements as long as they do not endanger Israelis.
That would be the best. Then we can get to see how they turn out. The advantage
of long-term interim agreements is that they can be stopped and changed if they
Shas was seen as more moderate when it was led by Deri and
abstained on the Oslo Accord vote. When he was succeeded by Eli Yishai, the
party moved to the Right.
Until now it was unclear whether the party
would moderate its message on diplomatic issues with Deri’s return, but he made
clear that it would.
“I am not ready to live without hope,” Deri said.
“We must consider what it means to annex 2 million Palestinians and control
their education, health and welfare. The Israeli economy cannot bear that and I
am not prepared to do that.” •