Analysis: Ready to roar

Deri’s loyalists say that now that he is back in the job that he expected to return to years ago, Arye is ready to roar.

May 3, 2013 00:48
2 minute read.
Arye Deri at the President's residence, January 31, 2013.

Arye Deri at the President's residence 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Arye Deri marched away from the Shas leadership 13 years ago like the lion that his name means in Hebrew, followed by masses of party activists who idolized him.

He may look like he is returning as a lamb, weakened by the three-man fight over the Shas chairmanship, an election campaign in which the party remained at 11 seats and coalition talks that left him in the opposition.

But Deri’s loyalists say that now that he is back in the job that he expected to return to years ago, Arye is ready to roar.

Just in time, too.

The ministerial committee on equalizing the burden of IDF service is expected to release its recommendations as early as next week. A fierce battle between the haredim and the government will follow soon after.

Mass protests are expected to fill the streets around public squares in non-haredi neighborhoods with black for the first time since the demonstrations against Deri going to jail in 2000.

Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen, who reported on Deri’s departure from the helm of Shas for Channel 1, predicted that the party would now become more socioeconomic, less haredi and less right-wing.

He said those changes could allow the party to return to holding the balance of power even though it is a very different era.

Chen, who wrote a 2004 book about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called Maran (revered teacher), said the decision made at the Shas mentor’s home Thursday night was not only about who would replace Eli Yishai but also about who will replace 92- year-old Yosef.

“A strategic decision has been made,” Chen said.

“The house of Maran is preparing for the day after the rabbi. It’s an earthquake that shows who the new leader will be after the Rabbi Ovadia era and for many years to come.”

Yishai would have been a much more disciplined choice to head Shas. He would not cause problems for Yosef and would not try to make decisions behind his back. But to lead a battle, Shas needs a charismatic figure like Deri.

The man who will lead the fight against drafting yeshiva students is not the firebrand he used to be. In closed conversations, he has admitted that more haredim need to serve for their own good and that the real problem for haredim is poverty.

But Deri needs to lead the fight to return Shas to what it used to be: A party not afraid to cause controversy.

To succeed, the party led by a lion will need to start biting again •

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