Shas leader Arye Deri suffered a double blow on Tuesday night with the defeat of
two of his mayoral candidates: Moshe Lion in Jerusalem and Tzuriel Krispal in
Deri was heavily invested in both of those campaigns, with the race
for Jerusalem bound up, according to the Shas chairman, with his plans to
dismantle the perceived antiharedi national coalition with the help of close
friend and Lion patron Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman.
loss of Elad is particularly humiliating to Deri, given the city’s haredi
Sephardi majority and its history of Shas mayors.
The two defeats come at
an inopportune time for Deri, just two weeks after the death of Shas spiritual
leader and ultimate party authority Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
undercurrents within the Sephardi party are such that any political defeat could
be taken as an opportunity by Deri’s opponents, such as former chairman MK Eli
Yishai, to begin sharpening their knives.
The defeat in Elad will be
especially painful for the Shas chairman. He invested significant efforts in
rallying voters in the city but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Deri held a
huge rally in Elad on Sunday night to boost morale and voter turnout, where
newly minted member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages and Yosef’s son Rabbi
David Yosef spoke passionately about his father’s anger that Agudat Yisrael
candidate Yisrael Porush was running for mayor. Deri returned to Elad on Tuesday
night to get out the vote in a last gasp effort to prevent the city from
slipping from his grasp.
But although disgruntled elements within the
party will likely seek to blame Deri for the setbacks, the Shas chairman has
managed to successfully place himself at the center of the party machine
following the death of Yosef and, critically, has shored up family support for
him and his leadership.
Although the primary power source, Yosef senior,
is gone, his son Yitzhak Yosef is now safely ensconced in the seat of the chief
rabbi, empowered by the symbolism of his ceremonial hat and cloak.
worked hard to have Yitzhak Yosef elected, elbowing aside then-chief rabbi
Shlomo Amar in the process.
And the memorial service marking the last day
of the shiva mourning period for Yosef was a master class in political stage
management. David Yosef, in an emotional and powerful speech, said explicitly
that Deri was the man anointed by his father to lead the party into the future,
as did senior member of the Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Shalom Cohen.
addition, the ire of Amar, a potentially powerful opponent who now bears
significant grievance against Deri, was tempered somewhat by allowing him to
give a eulogy to Yosef at the memorial service, something denied to him at the
funeral procession on October 7.
And Yishai, whom Deri pushed aside when
he reclaimed the leadership of the party last year, was not mentioned even once
at the event, much less allowed to take to the stage and speak.
the political blows dealt to Deri and Shas on Tuesday night in the municipal
elections, his grip on the party will not be easily pried lose anytime soon.