Eli Yishai 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shas chairman Eli Yishai faced criticism from a central figure inside his own
party for the first time on Monday when his No. 2, Construction and Housing
Minister Ariel Attias, delivered a scathing attack on him in the presence of
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Yishai has recently been criticized by Haim Amsalem, an unknown
freshman MK in Shas, but until now, Attias has been careful not to attack Yishai
Attias changed direction on Monday, questioning why instead of
fighting for social issues, Yishai took a leading role on scandals that
antagonize the public such as conversion, exemptions from the IDF and preventing
the expansion of Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center due to the presence of
ancient graves on the site.
“We need to consider how Shas got such a poor
image in eyes of the public,” Attias reportedly said. “We need to do some soul
searching about how we became so hated.”
A spokesman for Yishai said he
had been at the Shas faction meeting, and he did not hear Attias say such
things. Attias’s spokesman said he had not been with his boss and had no idea
what he said.
Attias is considered a potential replacement for Yishai at
the head of Shas, as is former party leader Arye Deri.
In an interview
with Israel Radio on Monday morning, Deri promised Yishai that he would not
“take his place,” a statement that was immediately interpreted as a sign that he
would form his own party that would compete against Shas in the next election
and join Kadima in an effort to bring down the Right.
Deri also made
Yishai look bad by taking credit for successful efforts to integrate haredim
into the work force.
“When I headed Shas, I started the first effort to
encourage haredim to get academic degrees,” Deri said.
“I started with
three students. Then we started a special track for kollel students to
learn business administration. Now this track has 5,000
Following Deri’s interview, Yishai immediately called a press
conference in which he claimed that he was responsible for bringing haredim into
the work force. He said the Israeli public should be thanking him now that
10,000 haredim were pursuing academic studies.
Yishai used the press
conference to slam Likud, Kadima, Labor and Israel Beiteinu politicians for
their recent attacks on the haredim.
He said parties had started “hacking
haredim,” because they were afraid that late Shinui leader Yosef “Tommy” Lapid’s
son, journalist Yair Lapid, would form a new party and take away their
“Unfortunately, recently more and more waves of incitement and
hatred are directed against the Sephardi observant public,” Yishai
“Parties know that it makes news is if they attack haredim and
Jewish tradition, so they are mounting campaigns on the backs of the haredim, as
if we were in an election year,” he charged. “I call on all the heads of the
parties to stop the incitement.”
Yishai called Deri’s interview
“uninteresting and irrelevant.”