Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Aryeh Deri meeting.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yahad party chief and former Shas chairman Eli Yishai has turned down an offer by current Shas chairman Arye Deri to close down the Yahad party, rejoin Shas, and receive a ministerial post in the next government.
Sources close to Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Yishai’s spiritual patron, told The Jerusalem Post that the offer had been made in the context of a recent round of reconciliation meetings between the various warring rabbinic and political leaders of the Sephardi haredi community.
A close associate of Deri said, however, that Shas would support Yishai’s return to the party in only a municipal, not national, leadership role, saying that he generates too much tension within Shas.
The efforts to unite the splintered factions of the sector have been prompted largely by polls that cast doubt as to whether Shas will gain enough votes to enter the Knesset in the next election.
To to this end, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and former national chief rabbi Shlomo Amar met with current Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Shas chairman Interior Minister Arye Deri on Tuesday night in order to formally end a fiveyear feud between Amar and Deri.
Amar then met with Yishai on Wednesday morning, as part of efforts to bring about a broader reconciliation, including a political agreement, between the two parties.
According to well-placed sources, Deri is asking Yishai to return to the Shas fold and to close Yahad in return for a ministerial position in the next government, should Shas be a coalition partner.
Sources close to Yishai told the Post that no serious negotiations are being undertaken, however, because Yishai “is not interested in a job,” and both he and Mazuz refuse to shutter Yahad.
Sources close to Mazuz confirmed that the rabbi, too, refuses to countenance the closure of Yahad, and believes that a joint list between the two parties, similar to how Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael combine in United Torah Judaism, would be the most electorally successful solution.
Mazuz and Yishai are demanding that Shas and Yahad run a joint list in the next election, in which spots on the electoral list alternate between the respective parties.
However, it appears that such an arrangement is not acceptable to Deri.
There are several long-running arguments within the haredi Sephardi rabbinic and political leadership that have festered and intensified over the last five years.
Amar has been in a protracted feud with Shas and Deri since 2013, after Deri torpedoed Amar’s efforts to serve for a second term as national chief rabbi.
At the meeting between Yosef, Amar and Deri, it was agreed to declare and end to the feud between the sides and to demonstrate that the senior Sephardi rabbinic leadership is united around Shas.
Amar was historically close to the late, revered Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and was part of the Shas rabbinic leadership for many years, so it is important for Shas to demonstrate this newfound unity to its public.
Mazuz, however, has never been part of the Shas leadership, partly because he is more openly Zionist and because his political positions are on the hard-right of the spectrum, and he will not compromise on diplomatic issues, as Shas has and may in the future.
Part of Mazuz’s thinking is that voters who identify with him and his positions will not vote for Shas, even if Yishai rejoins the party, and that the best way to maximize the Sephardi haredi vote is the joint list proposal.
Yishai, for his part, has been in all-out war with Deri since Deri supplanted him as Shas chairman in 2013, after returning from his enforced political exile due to his conviction and incarceration for bribery.
Yishai left Shas and established his Yahad party under the spiritual leadership of Mazuz in 2014, which narrowly failed to enter the Knesset in the 2015 election, missing the electoral threshold by some seven thousand votes.
The internecine fighting has damaged Shas in particular and, together with the criminal investigations against Deri
, severely weakened its standing in the polls.