(photo credit: KNESSET)
Speculation swirled around the political intentions of Shas MK Eli Yishai on Wednesday, with rumors of his impending split from the party to form a new political movement.
Yishai was formerly chairman of the Shas party but was ousted from the position by MK Arye Deri after the latter returned from his enforced political exile in 2012 following his conviction and incarceration for accepting bribes.
Yishai has never reconciled himself to being replaced as party leader and has agitated against the Shas leadership ever since.
Maariv Online reported on Wednesday that Yishai’s departure was imminent and that efforts at reconciliation between Deri and Yishai had failed.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, Yishai said he had not made any final decision but did not deny the report.
“All options are available including joining with other MKs and ministers to form a new party,” he said.
Yishai added that being given the second spot on the Shas electoral list was not enough for him and said that the party must win back voters who have lost trust in the movement, accusing Deri of dragging the party leftward.
Rabbi Meir Mazuz, a respected Sephardi yeshiva dean, Shas supporter and Yishai ally, sent a letter on Wednesday to Rabbi Shimon Baadani, one of the four members of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, saying that if unity was not achieved between Yishai and Deri he would not support the party in the upcoming elections.
In the letter first published by Haredi news site Kol Hazman, Mazuz, referring to polls showing Shas losing seats from its current 11 MKs and noting the advances in the polls by Bayit Yehudi, said that only unity within the Shas ranks could avert a poor showing for the party in the election.
Deri has tried, at least publicly, to heal the rifts with his rival and said earlier this week that Yishai would be given the No. 2 slot on the Knesset candidates list.
MK Nissim Ze’ev, a Yishai loyalist, played down the possibility of a split in the party and said that he had been tasked by Deri to bridge between the two of them.
“I was requested to help mend the rift, and I see it as a personal responsibility to identify the problems that exist and to find ways to deal with them,” Ze’ev told the Post.
“I sat with Eli [Yishai] for two hours today and will convene with Arye [Deri] tomorrow to discuss these issues,” he said, although he refused to elaborate on what the points of contention were.
He said it was possible to prevent Yishai from quitting the party and that the problems could be resolved over the next week.