Haredi parties joyous; Shinui dealt a blow

Shas, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael expressed unbridled joy Monday at Prime Minister Sharon's decision to abandon the Likud, estimating that it would severely hurt their archenemy Shinui. "Good news for the political system," announced "Nayes", a haredi news service available via cellphone late Sunday night. "Shinui's electoral base is in shambles after Prime Minister Sharon's decision to establish an independent party," the service said. During the Shas faction meeting Monday all 11 MKs estimated that Sharon's move would "pulverize" Shinui. "Fifteen enemies of the Jewish people are on their way out," Eli Yishai reportedly said. But unlike Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael, Shas is also expected to capitalize on a weaker Likud. "Likud is going to crash," said Yitzhak Sudri, who headed the Shas PR in the last three elections. "And that's good for Shas. Voters who left Shas for the Likud will come back home to their true home. "Likud betrayed their constituents in three important areas: foreign policy, socioeconomic policy and Jewish identity." Sudri said that Shas's gain at Likud's expense would compensate partially for the fallout from Amir Peretz's victory in Labor. However, he was quick to add that there are not many voters deliberating between Labor and Shas. Aryeh Deri, the popular former Shas leader, reportedly said this week that Shas was responsible for Peretz's win over Peres. "We have been so successful in bringing to Israeli consciousness discrimination against Sephardim that it has even spread to the Labor Party," said a Shas source quoting Deri. One Degel Hatorah functionary, who is close to the Lithuanian spiritual leaders, said that if Sharon and Peretz end up getting about the same mandates as polls foresee, the Ashkenazi haredi parties would probably prefer Peretz to Sharon. "There is a strong desire among haredim to punish Sharon for making such drastic cuts in child allowances and Torah education. As soon as we get the chance to take revenge we will."