Poll: Amsalem more popular than Ovadia Yosef

Party to focus on leader’s ‘courage’ in standing up to Shas, which in turn says there is ‘no truth to his claim.’

AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Am Shalem is the choice of the brave, according to the new election campaign announced on Monday by the party led by Shas renegade MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem.
Strategist Eilon Zarmon presented statistics suggesting that Amsalem is more popular than Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardic chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
According to research by Jerusalem Post pollster Rafi Smith, commissioned by Am Shalem, 76 percent of Israelis have a positive opinion of Amsalem, 49% said the same of Yosef, and only 39% view Shas chairman Eli Yishai positively.
In addition, 7% of the population said there is a high or very high chance they’d vote for Am Shalem.
Polls commissioned by a party tend to be flattering to that party. At the same time, Am Shalem surveyed 2,000 people, four times as many as most newspaper polls, reducing its margin of error.
“Our campaign is taking inspiration from Amsalem’s courage,” Zarmon explained, pointing to findings that 86% of the population think the Am Shalem leader is brave, ostensibly because he stood up to Shas.
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“In order to make a change, political power is not enough. You mainly need will and courage,” Amsalem said.
Amsalem decried his former party, saying Yishai claims to fight poverty, but actually created it.
“Shas took [Sephardic haredim] from a public that works and serves in the IDF, and made it extreme ‘Sephardic Lithuanians,’” said the Am Shalem leader, referring to the stringent Lithuanian haredim.
“I tell these people to look at photos of their grandfathers and fathers. Weren’t they Zionists? Didn’t they work and go to the army?” Amsalem also accused most haredi rabbis of being unaware of their followers’ poverty and real life problems, which said can often be solved by joining the workforce.
In addition to haredi enlistment in the IDF and employment, Amsalem emphasized the importance of learning the Education Ministry’s core curriculum as a way to ensure success in the future.
In reference to haredi parties not having women on their list, while his has women in the fourth, sixth and ninth slots, Amsalem said “women should be in the Knesset, because no one can represent women’s interests better than a woman.”
The Am Shalem leader said he is on a “historic mission” to bridge the gap between different populations in Israel and to make Judaism “moderate and welcoming, like it used to be.”
“My motto is a quote by Rabbi David Ben Zimra from 400 years ago: Torah laws have to work with logic and thought,” Amsalem stated. “We are for all Israelis – haredi, religious, non-religious – and we have real potential to make a change.”
The Shas party has an official policy of not commenting on Amsalem’s statements or on the Am Shalem party in general.
However, a Shas source rejected the claim that Shas keeps people in poverty and pointed out that the Shas network of elementary schools teaches the core curriculum subjects mandated by the state, unlike most other haredi schools.
The Shas official also pointed out that Adina Bar-Shalom, Yosef’s daughter, established the Haredi College in Jerusalem, the first academic college for haredi men and women in Israel, and that Yosef has helped raise money for the institution and visits students at the college campus every year.
“No other haredi rabbi or leader has supported academic studies for haredim like Rabbi Ovadia,” the source argued. “There is simply no truth in these claims.”