In a dramatic press conference at the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon, Shas MK Haim Amsalem stated that he has no intention of returning his mandate to his party, and claimed that his stances had been distorted to the rabbis who, of recent, spoke out against him.
An article about Amsalem's intention to form a new faction from nearly two weeks ago by Shalom Yerushalmi of Ma'ariv catalyzed the attempts of members in Shas, most notably party chairman Eli Yishai, to bring to the ousting of the outspoken Amsalem, who returned to the country on Monday after a week abroad.
Yishai had presented Amsalem's spiritual patron Rabbi Meir Mazuz with evidence of Amsalem's alleged misconduct as evident in the article and other cases, in which he expressed opinions that were liberal or against the Torah. The senior rabbi, head of the Kisse Rahamim institutions who is considered the leader of the Tunisian community in Israel, had reportedly spoken out against his student, and informed Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that he could eject Amsalem from Shas if he chose to.
“My place in the Knesset belongs to the public that chose me and supported me, I have no right to give it up,” he said. When asked if he would defy the order of Yosef to resign, if it should come to this, Amsalem reiterated his commitment to his electorate, and blamed those close to Yosef, inferring to Yishai, with presenting “half-truths” that created a distorted picture.