Shas rabbis reject Deri's resignation letter

Ultra-Orthodox party chairman's move comes day after footage exposed of late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticizing Deri.

Aryeh Deri and Ariel Atias (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Aryeh Deri and Ariel Atias
Shas leader Arye Deri will meet with the party’s rabbis Tuesday after they rejected a letter he wrote offering to resign due to the damage caused by his ongoing dispute with former chairman Eli Yishai.
The elderly rabbis walked from where they met at the home of the late Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to Deri’s house in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood Monday in an effort to persuade him to stay.
He was not at home but told the rabbis on the phone that he would meet with them Tuesday. In the meantime, Shas officials said Deri’s resignation has been temporarily postponed.
“The pain in my heart is even deeper than the day when [Yosef] died,” Deri wrote in the letter. “My heart is torn in light of the terrible blasphemy, contempt of the Torah and insult of our honorable teacher [Yosef]. So I decided to appear in front of the virtue of your Torah and give back the job to which you have appointed me. My rabbis, don’t make this harder on me. Understand me. I can no longer live with the feeling that because of me there are disputes and fighting.”
Deri told confidants that he insists on resigning and would not give in to the rabbis’ request for him to reconsider.
Deri recommended in the letter that Shas be led by former minister Ariel Attias and the party’s rabbis.
The correspondence came the day after a video from 2008 surfaced of Yosef calling Deri a thief and a bad man who did not listen to the rabbi’s instructions. In the video, Yosef also blamed Shas’s support for the Oslo accords on Deri.
The recent establishment of the Yahad Ha’am Itanu party, headed by Deri rival Yishai, has badly dented Shas’s standing in opinion polls, and the latest revelations could further harm the party’s political fortunes.
Yishai has denied a connection to the release of the video, but Deri’s allies blame him.
Beside Yosef’s grave on Monday, his son David, who is a close confidant of Deri, called Yishai a man of chutzpah who was distanced from the Shas leadership in shame.
David Yosef, his brother Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and his sister Adina Bar-Shalom came to their father’s grave to apologize to him for his honor being harmed by the scandal.
A source close to Yishai said there were more tapes in which Yosef apologized to Yishai for removing him from the Shas leadership and saying that he gave in to pressure because he was sick and weak. Channel 10 revealed an audio tape on Monday of Ovadia Shashua, a nephew of Yishai, boasting before Yishai left Shas that he intended to embarrass the party with videos if he was not given what he sought to remain in the party. Yishai’s associates responded that they are not responsible for what a teenager says in a private conversation.
Shas Council of Torah Sages member Rabbi Shimon Ba’adani wrote an angry letter to Yishai on Monday over the scandal. Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, meanwhile, called upon Shas’s right-wing voters to leave the party for Likud. “Shas has reached the end of its path,” she said. “This is the time to return to your home in the Likud.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.