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Former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, in a thinly-veiled attack, blamed current Shas chairman Eli Yishai for Shas's poor showing in polls ahead of the March 28 elections.
"[Shinui chairman Yosef] Tommy [Lapid] resigned after squandering 15 mandates," said Deri. "I have polls showing that I would receive 15 either as head of Shas or head of some other party. Despite that I am not planning to re-enter politics right now."
Although ostensibly referring to Lapid, Deri's barbed comments, made during an interview on Army Radio, were seen in Shas as directed at Yishai, as if Deri were calling on Yishai, who has failed to attract more than 9 to 11 mandates as Shas chairman, to resign.
Deri's statement came the morning after Shas officially launched its election campaign.
Commenting on his future plans, Deri said that the way things looked right now he would not return to politics during the present election campaign, but he added that it was possible he would do so after the elections.
"I do not want to promise but I do not think I will be an active participant in the present election campaign," said Deri.
In a related story, Shas is offering free books of psalms on its Internet site. Getting the book is conditional upon registering on the site. In past elections, parties have used psalms, amulets or blessings to encourage support at the poll booth.
Legislation prohibits "lobbying to vote or not to vote via oath, curse, excommunication, promise to bless, or by giving amulets. 'Amulet' includes any object that is perceived by a part of the public as capable of doing good or bad."
In response, a Shas spokesman said that passing out the psalms had nothing to do with the campaign for the 17th Knesset.
"We have been passing out psalms for months, maybe a year."
In the 1996 elections Shas's representation in the Knesset jumped from six mandates to 10 thanks to the amulets of centerian kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri. At the time, polls showed Shas would receive no more than four mandates.
MK Ofir Pines-Paz (Labor) drafted legislation, ratified by the Knesset, that prohibited the use of amulets or other religious objects to influence voters.
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