(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas chairman Arye Deri said on Sunday that he looked forward to working with Moshe Kahlon, who is establishing a new political party, and said that his reentry into politics was good news for those who believe in left-wing economics, even if Shas were to lose Knesset seats because of him.
Kahlon was formerly a member of the Likud party, and served as welfare and social services minister and as communications minister, before stepping down from front-line politics ahead of the 2013 elections.
In a highly anticipated step, he declared last week that he would start a party to tackle the cost of living crisis in the country, and polls consistently reveal that such a party would take around 10 Knesset seats in the next election should he run.
“After the next elections there will be new players. Kahlon will get full cooperation from us, even if he takes a seat from us here or there,” Deri told reporters on Sunday.
“If there will be another 10 seats [for those with a social agenda] we can change things, he is socially oriented,” Deri continued, saying that Kahlon grew up in similarly difficult economic circumstances as himself.
“We won’t fight with each other, just the opposite, ‘welcome to the club,’ I say.”
Shas placed heavy emphasis on the issue of poverty and Israel’s working class during the last election, and the Shas chairman is known for his left-leaning views on social and economic policy.
Shas has long held support from the non-Orthodox religious Sephardi population, despite being largely a haredi party. It is thought that the death of Shas’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, last year will damage the party’s ability to attract this sector of the population, and Kahlon’s party is a likely competitor for those votes, as Deri noted. Kahlon is Sephardi, the son of Libyan immigrants.
“In the coming Knesset session, Shas will lead the war for the weaker sectors of society. I have a concrete program [drawn up in cooperation] with professional people and we hope to get out of everything that has taken place,” he said in reference to what he describes as the economic hardship felt by the country’s poor.
Deri also proffered his views on the stability of the current government, which has been beset by rumors of an imminent collapse in recent weeks, saying that he did not think it would break up in the coming year.
“No one is interested in elections right now,” the Shas leader said, adding that he believed only developments in the political process with the Palestinians would change this situation.