(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Shas leader Arye Deri promised not to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and said he hoped opposition leader Isaac “Buji” Herzog will defeat Israel’s longtime leader.
“I would refuse to be a minister in this government,” Deri said in a fiery interview with Yediot Aharonot on Wednesday.
“I will not enter a government with such a budget, which supports the conversion bill and harms the weakest socioeconomic sectors. I also don’t see a way for a different government to be formed in the current political situation.”
Netanyahu said Saturday night that he wanted Shas and United Torah Judaism to join his government. He has told Deri that he wants him in his cabinet but Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has vetoed Shas replacing Yesh Atid in the coalition.
Deri accused Netanyahu of losing control of his ministers during Operation Protective Edge, enabling Finance Minister Yair Lapid to “extort” funds for his causes, and of being responsible for what he called the government’s “total failure.”
The Shas leader said Herzog was a preferable alternative to Netanyahu and that he hoped he would succeed in helping the Labor leader form a government after the next election, which he would do everything possible to expedite.
“Buji is a fair person, a team player, talented, and very diligent,” Deri said. “I don’t see any reason why he can’t replace Netanyahu and be prime minister.”
Asked whether Sephardi-haredi Shas voters could accept a secular Ashkenazi candidate from north Tel Aviv, Deri responded that Netanyahu was no more acceptable and suggested that Herzog, whose grandfather was chief rabbi, was closer to religious tradition than the prime minister.
Inside his own party, Deri said he would not tolerate insubordination by former Shas chairman Eli Yishai, stating that Shas had room for only one leader and daring Yishai to try to break off from Shas and form a new party.
“If someone in Shas is thinking about splitting or acting independently, I invite him to do it now,” he said. “The Shas Council of Torah Sages and I will not permit in any way creating such an atmosphere in the party.”
Deri said he opposed women running in the party in the next election, as did the party’s late mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and rejected the idea of including on the Shas list Adina Bar-Shalom, Yosef’s daughter, who founded a haredi women’s college and won the Israel Prize.
“She never spoke about a desire to enter politics when her father was alive because she knew that if she did she would never be able to enter his house again,” Deri said.