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Yishai takes top spot on Shas party list; Deri no. 2
By JEREMY SHARON
06/12/2012
Council of Torah Sages puts end to rampant speculation over Shas party list, keeping Yishai as leader of Sephardi haredi party.
 
The Shas Council of Torah Sages officially appointed Interior Minister and former party chairman Eli Yishai to the No. 1 spot on the party’s electoral list on Thursday, with Shas founder and joint leader Arye Deri receiving second place and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias taking the third spot.

The position of party chairman has nevertheless been left vacant, as was agreed in the deal that brought Deri back to the party, and there will be a decision on the matter after the election.

Regardless of Thursday’s decision, the announcement is unlikely to put an end to the political intrigue within the party and accompanying media speculation surrounding the question of who will lead the party following the election.

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During the press conference announcing the full list at the residence of Shas spiritual leader and council president Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the temporary three-pronged Shas leadership of Deri, Yishai and Attias spoke together of the harmony reigning within the troika and the importance of party unity ahead of the voting.

“In Shas, no one has left,” said Deri, in reference to the multiple party switches that have occurred in several political factions over the last few weeks.

“As you can see, thank God, no one has deserted, no one has run away, we’re all here,” he continued. “Placement [on the list] is not important, titles are not important; what’s important is the mission.”

He added that he had also requested that the Council of Torah Sages place him at No. 15 on the list, presumably as a way of guaranteeing that the party would take 15 seats through his personal popularity. However, he said, the council had refused his request.

Recent polls give Shas between nine and 11 seats.

After the first three slots, the top of the party list is almost identical to that of the previous election in 2009, apart from the omission of renegade Shas MK Haim Amsallem, who has established his own party, Am Shalem.

Although party sources indicated earlier this week that several new faces could replace more experienced figures on the list, none of those placed higher than No. 12.

Deri in particular was in favor of bringing in new blood, especially since the group of Shas MKs who currently fill the top 11 places are perceived to be loyal to Yishai.

During the 13 years of Deri’s exile from the party following his imprisonment for accepting bribes, and his subsequent ban from entering the Knesset, Yishai largely replaced Deri’s loyalists in the front rows of the political party.

Despite the semblance of unity the party members presented on Thursday, a document that the haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat exposed later that afternoon possibly indicates that Deri is closing in on the chairmanship position and will likely take the reins after the election.

In a letter addressed to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Yishai informed the speaker that Deri was replacing him as party proxy. Although the position is of a technical and bureaucratic nature, the haredi news outlet claimed that it was proof positive of Deri’s increasing dominance over Shas.

Responding to media questions about the chairmanship outside Yosef’s residence after the press conference, Deri said there was no legal requirement for a party chairman and that such issues would take time to sort out.

The first 15 places on Shas’s list are, in order: Eli Yishai, Arye Deri, Ariel Attias, Yitzhak Cohen, Meshulam Nahari, Amnon Cohen, Ya’acov Margi, David Azoulai, Yitzhak Vaknin, Nissim Ze’ev, Avraham Michaeli, Yoav Ben-Tzur, Lior Adari, Ami Iluz, Eli Dadoun.
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