Shas leader calls Lapid to wish him luck [pg. 8]

Shas spokesman deribed rare personal conversation as "cordial," adding that Lapid was "touched" by gesture.

In a highly unusually move, Shas leader Eli Yishai on Wednesday phoned former Shinui leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid to wish him luck in his future endeavors, a Shas spokesman said. Yishai placed the call to his arch political nemesis after Lapid announced he was quitting politics after a seven-year political career, during which he was consistently at loggerheads with Shas. A Shas spokesman described the rare personal conversation between the two men as "cordial," adding that Lapid was "touched" by the gesture. At a boisterous Shas campaign gathering in Jerusalem on Wednesday that attracted 3,000 people, however, Yishai called the anti-haredi Shinui a party that works "only on the basis of hatred," which has "no right to exist." Yishai compared Lapid to Haman. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told the crowd of enthusiasts that it was a "mitzva" to vote for the party. "We will fight those whio are forward and those who are behind," Yosef said, in a pun on the centrist Kadima Party, which means forward in Hebrew, calling Shas "the mezuza" of the government. Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri responded to Lapid's downfall by telling Channel 10 "I am not happy about it, but there are many religious, traditional and Sephardi people who were hurt by him, and there is no doubt that when a party like this disappears in shame they are satisfied and happy." Public opinion polls indicate that Shas, which won 11 seats in the last Knesset vote, is likely to maintain its current power in the March 28 elections. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.