Aryeh Deri and Ariel Atias.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas leader Arye Deri added drama to the soap opera in his party Tuesday when he delivered his letter of resignation from the Knesset to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Deri has been anguished by a 2008 video of the late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef calling him a bad man who is an electoral liability because he is perceived as a thief. He submitted a letter of resignation from the leadership of Shas on Monday, and resigning from the Knesset was another step on his way out of politics.
Shas officials continued to play down Deri’s moves Tuesday night, saying that even if he does not rescind his letter of resignation from the Knesset, he still has until January 29 to decide whether to run at the helm of the party in the March 17 general election.
After he delivered his letter at the Knesset, the rest of the Shas faction threatened to resign as well if the Shas Council of Torah Sages does not succeed in persuading Deri to remain the leader of the party. Deri met with all of the rabbis on the council individually Tuesday, but they failed to convince him to change his mind.
Activists pleaded with him to remain in politics, at a rally that took place Tuesday night outside Deri’s home in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
The activists erected a tent and said they intended to remain there until he announces he will remain at the helm of Shas.
Deri has asked for former Shas minister Ariel Attias to replace him as the party’s leader. There were no indications that if he goes, anyone would ask former Shas chairman Eli Yishai to return.
Yosef’s family continued to accuse Yishai of releasing the video and betraying the rabbi.
At a poorly attended rally in Sderot of his new Yahad Ha’am Itanu party, Yishai insisted he had no connection to the video. He said releasing such a video is “not his way,” but admitted he had more videos of Yosef that would help him politically if made public.
Yishai blasted his critics in Shas and said that they, not he, owed an apology to the late rabbi known by the nickname Maran, which means our master and teacher.
“Then they made me from a loyalist to a traitor, from a lover to an enemy, the enemy of Maran,” Yishai said. “In Maran’s last conversations he told me he had not wanted me hurt or replaced. My love for Maran cannot be described.”
Yishai said he formed his new party with rebel Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun to prevent the Oslo diplomatic process from continuing.
Chetboun said the most important part of the controversial Yosef video was the rabbi saying he opposed the Oslo accords and was pushed by Deri into allowing them to be advanced in the Knesset.
United Torah Judaism leaders Moshe Gafni and Ya’acov Litzman called Deri and urged him to rescind his resignation. They said he is needed to prevent their haredi (ultra-Orthodox) constituency from being harmed.
“I call on you, Deri, to prevent the entire ship from sinking,” Litzman said.
“Reconsider the step you took and continue your holy work as head of Shas. This is the time to display public responsibility and begin a path of unity.”
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