Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai is unlikely to run against incumbent Nir Barkat in the October 22 Jerusalem mayoral election, he told confidants on Monday in closed conversations from his vacation site in northern Israel.
The Ma’ariv newspaper reported that Yishai had said privately that he would “go for the job with full force” and that he believed he could obtain the support of all the religious factions in Jerusalem.
But a source close to Yishai refuted the report, saying that the MK knows he actually would have trouble obtaining support from any of the religious factions.
The source said Yishai doubted he could be supported by religious Zionists in Jerusalem, who tend to be more supportive of secular candidates than haredim.
Degel Hatorah wants to run former mayor Uri Lupoliansky; Yishai has poor relations with Agudat Yisrael head Ya’acov Litzman. And there isn’t even a guarantee he would be supported by Shas, due to friction with new party leader Arye Deri.
“The report is not true at all and was not authorized by him,” said a source close to Yishai who spoke to him.
“Jerusalem mayor is just one of many options for his future. It would be a natural job for him, but he is leaning against it,” said the source.
In his first faction meeting since his reinstatement as Shas leader, Deri said the era of fighting and political camps in the party had ended. He made a point of individually meeting each of the party’s MKs to reassure them that he would not take revenge against politicians who did not support him.
But in his lengthy speech at the beginning of the meeting Deri did not mention Yishai once, while he praised the recently fired head of the Shas faction in the Knesset, MK Avraham Michaeli.
Deri said his main goals would be to reestablish Shas as the party that is most connected to the man on the street, to build Shas’s support in the October 22 nationwide mayoral races, and to fight Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s economic decrees.
“Our struggle with Yair Lapid is ideological,” Deri said. “It is between haves and have-nots, not between religious and secular. We will not fall into that trap.”
Former Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, who took over as faction chairman for Michaeli, vowed that Shas would be a fighting opposition that would coordinate its efforts with Labor against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.