Attias says Deri must lead Shas

Move would prevent "split"; Yosef looking for unity solution.

Arye Deri sticker 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Arye Deri sticker 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri must return to the helm of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party in order to prevent it from breaking in two, the party’s current number two man, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, said Monday.
Current Shas chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai has called upon Deri to join together with him under Yishai’s leadership ahead of the next general election. But Deri has repeatedly rejected the offer and intends to form a new socioeconomic party.
Ideas have been raised among those closest to Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an effort to find a way to enable Deri to run under Yishai in Shas rather than on two separate lists.
One possibility that has been discussed is to keep Yishai as Shas chairman but make Deri the party’s top minister.
Yishai addressed the possibility of Yosef blocking Deri from forming a party Sunday on the Shas radio station Kol Barama.
“It is clear to me that he will not do anything against Yosef’s will,” Yishai said without mentioning Deri by name. “I have no doubt about that.”
Yishai said it was important to keep Shas united in the next election and said that it was Deri’s political home.
The interviewer asked the interior minister about the possibility of Yosef endorsing two lists: Shas for the ultra- Orthodox and Deri’s for traditional and secular people.
“There is no such possibility,” Yishai said. “Yosef has one Shas and it is dear to him. I believe that in the end we will all unite under his leadership.”
The dispute between Deri and Yishai began in 1999 when Deri was forced to step down as leader of the party after leading it to 17 Knesset seats. Yosef gave Yishai the job temporarily “as a deposit” until Deri would return from prison. The next election will be the first one since then when Deri is legally permitted to run for Knesset.
Speaking to interviewer Ilana Dayan at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem in June, Deri said he planned to lead a party that would be neither religious nor Sephardi.
“In the next election, I will head a party but not one that will allow me to represent my voters,” he said. “I am on the way back to politics in the next election, with God’s help. I can’t say yet in what framework, but I made the decision over the past year.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Deri did not announce that he would head a new party and he purposely left open the possibility that he could return to the chairmanship of Shas in place of Yishai.
“Shas doesn’t have to have the same face it has today,” Deri said.
Polls have shown a Deri-led party could win seven Knesset seats running against Shas, taking most of its support from Likud and not Shas. A source close to Deri said Monday that it would be clear to Yosef ahead of the next election that endorsing two parties would serve his interests the best.