Am Shalem party leader preparing for death of Shas spiritual mentor Yosef

Former Shas MK Haim Amsalem looks ahead as Am Shalem party eyes entrance into next Knesset.

AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Former Shas MK Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem party has started preparing for what he believes will help the party enter the next Knesset: The death of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Amsalem told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Yosef, who turns 93 next month, is to get out of the hospital on Thursday after undergoing medical tests. His supporters said the tests are routine and that the rabbi is well for his age. The next election will only take place in November 2017 if it is not advanced.
“Rabbi Ovadia is no longer functioning,” Amsalem said.
“Once he goes, Shas will lose 70 percent of its support that comes from non-haredim. Shas will also lose support from right-wingers now that the party is led by [the more dovish] Arye Deri and not [the more hawkish] Eli Yishai.”
Amsalem explained his plans further in an interview with Arutz Sheva. He predicted that Shas would turn into a Sephardi haredi party that would mirror the Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism.
“The masses of moderate Sephardim, most of whom wear knitted kippot, residents of the periphery and the development towns, understand today that it was an illusion, a deception,” Amsalem told Arutz Sheva.
“They understand that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is the last in the line of Sephardi rabbis, because the other rabbis have already studied in the Ashkenazi yeshivas. They are Sephardim, true, but their path is not the path of Sephardi Halacha and legal decisions.”
To prepare for Yosef’s death, Amsalem will decide soon whether Am Shalem should run in the next election independently or with Bayit Yehudi.
In January’s national vote, Am Shalem nearly passed the electoral threshold, which is expected to be raised before the next race for Knesset.
Amsalem complained that Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett reneged on a deal that the former Shas MK made with current Pensioners Affairs Minister Uri Orbach for the two parties to run together.
“I really wanted to run together, but Bennett rejected me,” Amsalem said. “They won 12 seats, but together we could have won 15. If Bayit Yehudi asks me, we could run together in the next election. But if not, Am Shalem will go in a different direction.”