Shas rabbi slams Deri’s claims to be party leader

Rabbi Rafael Pinhasi caught on tape criticizing joint political leader Arye Deri.

Arye Deri_521 (photo credit: Reuters)
Arye Deri_521
(photo credit: Reuters)
Rabbi Rafael Pinhasi, secretary of the Shas movement’s Council of Torah Sages, was caught on tape criticizing joint political leader Arye Deri for comments he has made claiming leadership of the party.
On Monday, however, the rabbi claimed that the recording was faked and that he did not remember saying such words in any forum.
In an interview last week, Deri said he had received “all the authority [he] need[s] to lead the Shas party,” and that for all intents and purposes he was “the chairman of Shas.” Deri’s comments were seemingly in reference to powers that were transferred to him as legal proxy for the Shas Knesset faction.
According to the recording of Pinhasi, however, the legal proxy powers he received are limited.
“This is one big bluff,” Pinhasi said in recordings broadcast by Army Radio Monday morning. “At the end of the day they transferred to him the power of legal proxy for the electoral list. Since he is directing the election process this is [within] his authority, but the powers of legal proxy for the party is still with [Eli] Yishai.”
According to Army Radio, Pinhasi added that Deri was angered by the fact he was placed as No. 2 on the party electoral list by the Council of Torah Sages, while Yishai – who serves as interior minister and, until Deri’s return to Shas in October, party chairman – retained the number one spot.
Pinhasi, a former Shas MK, said Deri is claiming to be in charge of the party to avoid being depicted as having lost the leadership struggle with Yishai.
“He wants to balance this out, he’s not in the No. 1 spot. [But] these are wars which don’t bring dignity to anyone,” Pinhasi said.
A source close to Deri rejected the comments, saying that Deri was committed to the success of the party in the coming elections and is working day and night on the campaign trail, in coordination with co-leaders Yishai and Housing Minister Ariel Attias.
Deri returned to the Shas party in November as joint leader with Yishai and Attias after 12 years of political exile, following his conviction and imprisonment in 2000 for taking bribes.
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Deri helped found the Shas movement in the mid-1980s and sought to return as chairman of the party. The compromise that brought him back to the party saw Yishai step down as party chairman, at least temporarily, until after the elections in January.
The deal also assigned tasks for the election campaign to the three leaders, with Yishai in charge of election day logistics, Deri in charge of the broader campaign logistics and Attias in charge of the party’s public relations efforts.
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, along with the three other rabbis who comprise the Shas Council of Torah Sages – Shimon Baadani, Shalom Cohen and Moshe Maya – will decide on who, if anyone, will be party chair after the poll.
The council, which chooses the party’s electoral candidates in lieu of primary elections, announced the complete Shas electoral list earlier this month at Yosef’s residence in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Deri was in favor of bringing in new faces to the list, especially since the group of Shas MKs who were previously in the top 11 places and retained those spots are perceived to be loyal to Yishai.
Several new figures were brought in but were placed in spots further down the list, and are unlikely to be elected to the Knesset.