Discontent grows within Shas over battle to lead the party

Poll shows slate winning seven seats with Deri at helm, nine with Yishai.

Arye Deri and Eli Yishai (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Arye Deri and Eli Yishai
Tensions within Shas persist, and discontent with the leadership of chairman MK Arye Deri is growing, specifically around concerns that the party’s electoral list will be revamped ahead of the coming election.
A poll published on Wednesday, showing that former party chairman and Deri rival MK Eli Yishai would lead the party to a better electoral showing than Deri himself, will likely add fuel to the fire.
The poll, published by Ma’ariv Hashavua and conducted by the Panels research group, predicted the party would win seven seats in the election under the stewardship of Deri. However, if Yishai were to lead the party in the general election it would increase it’s tally to nine seats.
The poll also found that if Shas were to split into two because of the battle between the two figures, Deri’s faction would take four seats, while Yishai’s would take five. Significantly, however, both parties would pass the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent.
Shas MK and one of the party founders, Nissim Ze’ev, reacted sharply this week to reports that Deri was considering bringing in fresh faces to the party’s electoral list and bumping some of the longstanding MKs down the list.
“Arye often notes that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef appointed him as party chairman,” said Ze’ev in reference to Shas’s late spiritual leader, who died last year. “But Rabbi Ovadia also appointed the party MKs and said that every one of us is beloved and trusted to continue in their public service and work for the community,” the MK continued.
He noted that the Knesset term had been cut short by more than three years and that the Shas MKs currently in the Knesset still enjoyed the legacy of Yosef’s support.
“The current party MKs must be allowed to continue with their work, and in light of Arye’s previous promise that the list will remain unchanged, the Shas Council of Torah Sages should confirm that this will be the case,” said Ze’ev.
A senior Shas source told The Jerusalem Post that Yishai met with council member Rabbi Shimon Baadani on Wednesday to discuss this issue and decision-making process within the party, and would also meet with council president and new Shas spiritual guide Rabbi Shalom Cohen later on Wednesday.
According to the source, Yishai wants a greater hand in the party’s decision making process, especially regarding issues such as who to back as prime minister after the elections.
Deri is left-leaning in both his economic and political perspective, whereas Yishai took the part to the right politically and on the diplomatic front when he was chairman.
“The current MKs are experienced and extremely professional in their work within the Knesset and guarantees from the Council of Torah Sages are required, because they will not tolerate this kind of hypocrisy and manipulation,” the source said.
He added that if Deri fails to confirm that the current MKs will remain in the same spots as in the previous election, a majority of the current Knesset members would approach the Council of Torah Sages to request such a guarantee.