The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party launched a new election campaign on Sunday morning giving strong backing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming April 9 elections, despite his impending indictment.
“Strengthening Bibi. Remembering Maran. Vote Shas,” reads one poster featuring a picture of the revered late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. “Maran” is an honorific title for respected rabbis.
Other posters tied to the campaign include messages such as “Strengthening Bibi, Protecting Shabbat,” and “Strengthening Bibi, Protecting Judaism.”
The campaign is essentially an appeal to Shas’s electoral base, promising to prevent any change to the status quo on religion and state, such as public transport on Shabbat, while guaranteeing the largely right-wing haredi sector that the party will back Netanyahu and the right-wing political bloc to form the next government.
It may also be an attempt to stop Netanyahu and Likud vacuuming up Shas voters with dire warnings that unless all right-wing voters vote Likud the right-wing bloc will lose the election.
Following Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement last week of his intent to indict Netanyahu
for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Shas and United Torah Judaism gave Netanyahu strong backing, saying they would support no one but the prime minister to form the next government.
“Shas is the mezuzah of Likud, the only party that strongly supports Netanyahu as prime minister while at the same time maintaining the Jewish character of the state,” said Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri last week. “We do not forget the will of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to protect Jewish tradition, Shabbat, kashrut, the world of the Torah, and to take care of the weak in society. We will continue to act to preserve his heritage and his life’s work.”
Deri himself was indicted and sentenced to three years’
incarceration on bribery charges in 2000 and is facing a new indictment after the police recommended last year he be charged with fraud, breach of trust, tax offenses and money laundering.
Deri has said he intends to return as interior minister in the next government, should Shas be a part of the governing coalition, and pledged to keep the ministry for the Negev, Galilee and periphery in Shas’s hands as well.
“I am certain and believe that Netanyahu will be re-elected and will continue to be prime minister in the next Knesset as well,” said Deri.
Other right-wing politicians echoed Shas’s support for Netanyahu on Sunday.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned voters in a Channel 12 interview that they will either vote for the Right in the upcoming elections, or “vote for a Palestinian state.”
And former defense minister Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio Sunday morning, “We will not sit in the government of [Israel Resilience leader Benny] Gantz in any situation. Likud is the only option.”
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