Arye Deri and Eli Yishai.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The election campaign’s most interesting development to date has been the reports that former Shas chairman Eli Yishai is considering joining forces with Uri Ariel’s religious Zionist Tekuma party. This is interesting even if, as currently seems likely, it doesn’t happen – not because of how it might affect the election dynamics, but because of what it says about the way walls are crumbling in haredi society.
True, Sephardi haredim have always been less insular than their Ashkenazi counterparts. But even in Shas, jumping ship to join forces with religious Zionists would have meant certain ostracism not so long ago. And Yishai is no fringe figure; he was Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s handpicked choice to lead Shas for years until Aryeh Deri returned to politics, and the party leadership, last year. Thus it’s hard to imagine him even considering such a move if he didn’t think the haredi world had changed enough that he could do so without severing ties with it.