(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Shas chairman and current leader of the Yahad party Eli Yishai has insisted that the only way to bring about political unity between Shas and Yahad would be by having both parties run on the same list with alternating spots for their respective Knesset candidates.
He denied that he had been offered a ministerial position by Shas if he returned to the party.
Speaking to the Kol Barama haredi radio station on Wednesday night, Yishai said he did not understand Shas leader Arye Deri’s objections to a joint electoral list, pointing out that such a system worked well with Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael, which comprise the Ashkenazi haredi party United Torah Judaism, as well as the combining of Bayit Yehudi and the National Union and the joining of the Labor Party with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua.
“If Arye Deri wants, it could have happened already yesterday,” Yishai said. “It would bring happiness to the Jewish people.”
A poll should be commissioned to examine the mutual electoral strength of both Shas and Yahad, the former MK and minister said, adding that the number and order of spots on a joint electoral list be determined in accordance with the relative strength of each party.
Yishai said keeping Yahad as an independent party on a joint list with Shas would garner more votes than if he were simply to return to Shas.
The recent efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities and some form of political unity within the Sephardi haredi sector stems from the precarious position Shas finds itself; it has been placed in several polls just above or even just under the electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset.
Yahad falls under the threshold in polls to an even larger extent. But a form of political unity would likely guarantee that the joint list would enter the Knesset in the next elections.
Part of the effort to bring about Sephardi haredi peace has included reconciliation between the sector’s leading rabbis.
On Tuesday night, Jerusalem Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who was formerly a senior figure in the Shas movement but who had a falling out with Deri and Shas five years ago, met with Israel’s Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef in a show of reconciliation.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, Amar’s son Rabbi Eliyahu Amar said the meeting between the two was largely symbolic and a sideshow to the greater issue of political unity.
He said the meeting between Yosef and Amar was designed to show the Sephardi haredi public, which is unhappy with the political schism, that the two sides are coming together again.
According to Eliyahu Amar, Shas has waged a war against his father since he ran his own candidate against Yosef for the 2013 elections to the chief rabbinate and sought to isolate him.
“Shas understands though that Rabbi Amar is very popular with the public, and that the chances of bringing about unity with Eli Yishai are much greater if the Shas movement reconciles with him,” he said.
Eliyahu Amar insisted that it was Yishai, not his spiritual patron Rabbi Meir Mazuz, who is insisting on the joint list proposal, and that this idea would not be acceptable to Shas and would not work.
He said he believed Yishai would ultimately need to return to Shas and accept several places on one united Shas electoral list for himself and other members of his party, while Mazuz would be added to Shas’s Council of Torah Sages.
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