Arye Deri at the President's residence 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Arye Deri will remain the leader of Shas, the party’s Council of Torah Sages
ruled on Wednesday, ending speculation about a change following Monday’s death
of mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The letter published by the council’s three
remaining rabbis – Shalom Cohen, Shimon Baadani, and Moshe Maya – was also
intended to reinforce the message that the council will oversee the party in
“Along with the party chairman Arye Deri, we intend to
fulfill the will of [Yosef] to maintain the power of the Torah and continue to
raise the splendid glory of Sephardi Jewry and restore its crown and continue
his great work and legacy,” they wrote.
The letter came amid reports that
former Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai was considering splitting Shas and forming a
new party. Four MKs are needed to break up the 11-lawmaker faction and six to
take the party’s name and government funding.
Sources close to Yishai
were angry that Deri had monopolized Yosef’s funeral, Ma’ariv reported on
Wednesday. They complained that Deri’s eulogy was too political and that neither
Yishai nor former chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar were permitted to eulogize
Yishai’s loyalists, according to the report, accused Deri of
crying exaggerated, fake tears when the rabbi died. They noted that a year ago,
Deri was threatening Yosef that he would form a new party if he was not given
the top slot on the Shas candidates list.
Yishai distanced himself from
the report in an interview with Channel 1 on Wednesday night.
“I will do
everything possible to prevent a split in the party,” he said.