Ex-Shas head Deri ready to run alone, sources say

Deri would prefer to run with Shas, but Yishai opposes move; decision will be made by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef once elections are called.

Arye Deri 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arye Deri 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Shas chairman Arye Deri is prepared to form a socioeconomically-focused political party that could run in the next election if he is not welcomed back to the leadership of Shas, sources close to Deri said Wednesday.
The former Shas party head has all the necessary infrastructure. His brother, attorney Shlomo Deri, registered a party called Kavod Lemasoret (Respect for Tradition) four years ago. Arye Deri could run with it, whether with that name or a different one.
Nonetheless, he still would rather run in Shas if the party’s mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, honors a promise he made to Deri in 1999 when he temporarily gave the job to Eli Yishai “as a deposit” until Deri returned from prison.
Shas’s current number two, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias, has expressed support for a return to the party’s top spot by Deri, but Yishai has refused to budge. Possible compromises have been raised, including keeping Yishai first on the party’s Knesset list but making Deri its top minister.
The decision will be made by Yosef once elections are called.
Yishai has expressed confidence that the rabbi would rule in his favor.
“In Shas, no one goes against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef,” he said. “There won’t be internal fights in Shas.”
In May, when it appeared that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would call for elections in September, Deri was about to announce the formation of a new party. He delayed the announcement because his father died.
This time, Deri intends to be extra-careful and not say anything prematurely. But he did note that Shas had lost some 150,000 votes since the 1999 election, in which he won the party 17 seats.
“No one can guarantee there will be elections,” a source close to Deri said. “It could be a game Bibi is playing again. We are waiting for the Knesset to really dissolve itself. Arye said he would head a party in the next election without specifying whether it would be Shas or a new party, and that remains true.”
Speaking to interviewer Ilana Dayan at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem in June 2011, 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.”
Yishai said he preferred not to go to early elections, but added that Shas would be prepared at any point should Netanyahu initiate them.
Responding to the prime minister’s statement that he would initiate early elections if an agreement to pass the 2013 budget could not be made with Shas and other coalition partners, Yishai said his party was “ready yesterday” for elections since it did not need to hold primaries.