Shas council rules: Deri to stay leader

Ruling ends speculation about possible changes in faction leadership following Monday's death of party mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Arye Deri at the President's residence 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Arye Deri at the President's residence 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Arye Deri will remain the leader of Shas, the party’s Council of Torah Sages ruled on Wednesday, ending speculation about a change following Monday’s death of mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
The letter published by the council’s three remaining rabbis – Shalom Cohen, Shimon Baadani, and Moshe Maya – was also intended to reinforce the message that the council will oversee the party in Yosef’s stead.
“Along with the party chairman Arye Deri, we intend to fulfill the will of [Yosef] to maintain the power of the Torah and continue to raise the splendid glory of Sephardi Jewry and restore its crown and continue his great work and legacy,” they wrote.
The letter came amid reports that former Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai was considering splitting Shas and forming a new party. Four MKs are needed to break up the 11-lawmaker faction and six to take the party’s name and government funding.
Sources close to Yishai were angry that Deri had monopolized Yosef’s funeral, Ma’ariv reported on Wednesday. They complained that Deri’s eulogy was too political and that neither Yishai nor former chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar were permitted to eulogize Yosef.
Yishai’s loyalists, according to the report, accused Deri of crying exaggerated, fake tears when the rabbi died. They noted that a year ago, Deri was threatening Yosef that he would form a new party if he was not given the top slot on the Shas candidates list.
Yishai distanced himself from the report in an interview with Channel 1 on Wednesday night.
“I will do everything possible to prevent a split in the party,” he said.