(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Loyalists of Shas leader Arye Deri began a countdown Wednesday night at the tent they erected outside his home in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Unlike much of the world, they were not counting down to the new year. Most were not even aware that 2014 was ending.
They were counting down to 7:30 p.m. Thursday night when Deri’s resignation letter from the Knesset that he submitted Tuesday night takes effect. They said their initial goal was persuading him to backtrack by then, but if they do not succeed, they still have a month until the January 29 deadline to submit Shas’s Knesset list.
“I hope that we will succeed in our mission of stopping Arye Deri from taking a disastrous step that would take years for Shas to fix,” veteran Deri loyalist Rabbi Yehuda Azrad said at the tent. “Hundreds of people have been coming here to say we want the Shas revolution to continue.”
Unlike a tent Azrad erected in 2000 outside Deri’s jail cell in Ramle, leading Shas rabbis have become part of the tent. Azrad said Deri was very serious about wanting to leave politics.
Late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son Rabbi David Yosef, a member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, bashed former Shas chairman Eli Yishai in a rally at the tent, accusing him of defecting to the religious- Zionist camp by forming the Yahad Ha’am Itanu party with rebel Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun.
“He betrayed Maran [Yosef’s honorific],” the crowd at the rally chanted.
The protesters blamed Yishai for a controversial 2008 video broadcast Monday in which Yosef expressed concern that perceptions that Deri is a thief would make him an electoral liability. In the video, Yosef called Deri a bad man and blamed him for Shas enabling the passage of the Oslo accords.
One of Yosef’s sons threatened Channel 2 with a lawsuit Wednesday for broadcasting the video without his family’s permission. Channel 2 political respondent Amit Segal responded that there was no legal problem with broadcasting the video.
Due to threats Yishai received, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein ordered the Knesset Guard on Wednesday to increase his protection beyond the one bodyguard he has already been provided. Yishai continued to insist Wednesday that he had no connection to the video.
“If I wanted, I could have released tapes that would have created an earthquake that could result in us getting 10 to 12 seats,” Yishai told Army Radio. “I don’t want to harm anyone, even if it means paying a price.”
A Dialogue poll taken for Channel 10 found that Deri and the Shas leader’s recommended replacement, former minister Ariel Attias, would get the same five seats at the helm of the party. Yahad Ha’am Itanu would get four seats according to the poll.