Deri and Yishai at Knesset 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Arye Deri is back as the top gun in Shas, and that is bad news for just about
everybody in this country because he is shady, retrogressive and a purveyor of
Go back and read the district court transcripts of the decision
from Deri’s conviction for bribery and fraud. Read Mordechai Gilat’s blockbuster
book Deri’s Curse, which details how Deri corrupted everybody around him. Read
any of Deri’s recent interviews, in which he expresses no remorse whatsoever for
his sins of yesteryear.
Yes, Deri “paid his debt” to society through time
in jail. But is he really the finest person that the large and important Shas
community has to offer as a national leader? Is Deri truly the model individual
that Shas educators wish to present before their flock? And you wonder: Is this
really the man with whom Shelly Yacimovich is going to make common cause in
presenting an alternative government for the State of Israel? Deri is
retrogressive because he is the mastermind behind Shas’s disastrous school
system, where children are trapped in an impossible world of ultra- Orthodox
strictures and limitations; a system that deems real work and productivity –
what we would call normal life – ossur (“forbidden”); a system that pauperizes
and radicalizes the Sephardic population.
Deri is one of the father
figures of the haredi world of dependency, of living off the dole. He was
central to the creation of the all-encompassing government support system for
those studying in yeshivot; a system so comprehensive that it simply doesn’t pay
for a kollel man to step out into the working world.
Sad to say, Shas
mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef publicly praised Deri this week for just this; for
obtaining lavish benefits from the government “to the extent that Agudat Yisrael
representatives did not manage to secure over four decades.”
ruefully has Rav Ovadia been wrapped around Deri’s little finger! I haven’t once
heard the newly reincarnated Arye Deri speak positively about higher education
and professional-training programs for the ultra-Orthodox that have opened in
recent years, nor has he said one kind word about increased participation of
haredim in the army.
Manipulative is Arye Deri’s middle name. When he was
interior minister, he used every trick in the book to force municipalities to
favor Shas institutions and party hacks (and to get his brothers appointed as
municipal rabbis). He repeatedly monkeyed with Daylight Savings Time to fit one
or another perceived (false) “need” of the religious community, to the detriment
of the economy and of all lovers of long summer evenings.
regulatory mischief? Because it was Deri’s way of reminding us who was really
running the country.
Worse still, Deri is behind the increasing hateful
and crude language that we have heard from Rav Ovadia in recent years about the
State of Israel, about the secular public, and about the religious-Zionist
Deri is responsible for the very unfortunate estrangement
between Rav Ovadia (who was once a chief rabbi of the State of Israel!) and the
religious- Zionist public.
Deri was almost certainly the person who
whispered wicked things about Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party in the ears
of Rav Ovadia, leading to the rabbi’s outrageous outburst in January that
Bennett leads the “Bayit [“home”] of goyim,” not the “Bayit of
This so neatly fits the Deri modus operandi: Vicious, vindictive
Reportedly, Deri was also behind the infamous,
racist “Kochavit Giyur” (“Dial-a-Conversion”) advertising campaign that Shas ran
in the recent election campaign. This campaign smeared Russian olim as
counterfeit converts, and slandered religious-Zionist rabbis as liberal
destroyers of conversion standards.
Politically, let’s not forget that
Deri spawned the “Stinking Maneuver” in 1990 which attempted to bring down the
unity government led by prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and install a narrow Peres
government instead. The move failed, but it cast the die for years of close
cooperation between the Left and the haredim.
Deri was a loyal partner in
passing the Oslo I and II accords in Knesset, and in doing so bought the Labor
Party’s support for haredi takeover of all state religious enterprises (such as
the Chief Rabbinate, religious courts and more). Today, Deri is suspiciously
close to Ehud Olmert and Haim Ramon, and outspokenly hostile to religious
Zionism and the communities of Judea and Samaria.
Just the other day,
Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen sent Prime Minister Netanyahu a surprising letter calling
on Israel to embrace the so-called Arab League peace initiative. Can you
imagine? A Shas leader imploring Netanyahu to “turn over every stone and
investigate every possibility... that the Arab League initiative holds the seeds
for a new bridge of understanding between Islam and Judaism and the Jewish
state”? Such phony, lefty openness to ersatz Arab diplomatic overtures wasn’t
typical Shas behavior under the aegis of former party leader Eli Yishai. But
Deri is back and is marching Shas toward the Saudis and the political
Of course, it was just a matter of time until Deri pushed Eli
Yishai out of the Shas leadership. Deri has always been about Deri. And with
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef fading in old age, Shas is going to even more become a
I sense that Shas is going to promote Deri up the
ladder to spiritual leader; the heir apparent to Rav Ovadia. Get ready for “Baba
Arye.” You’ll soon be hearing rebbe-style miracle stories about Baba Arye’s
mystical, magical powers, and his great humanitarian works.
we’ll all be tasting Baba Arye’s brand of bitter, blithely sectorial and
brusquely cynical politics.