Shas's Deri and Yishai shake hands after holding talks that reduce tensions

After meeting Yishai says “We will do everything to work together protect the movement.”

Deri and Yishai 370 (photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
Deri and Yishai 370
(photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
Shas chairman Arye Deri and bitter rival Eli Yishai met Wednesday afternoon at the Knesset in an attempt to reduce tensions within the party following the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Shas movement’s spiritual leader.
They talked away from the press for approximately half an hour and shook hands in front of the media immediately afterward.
On Saturday night, in an interview with Channel 2, Deri accused Yishai of refusing to help in the municipal election campaign and apportioned partial blame to his rival for the defeat of Shas-endorsed candidates in Elad and Jerusalem.
Although Yishai refused to respond, allies of the former chairman – including MK Nissim Ze’ev – criticized Deri for his public comments and called on him to apologize.
On his way to Wednesday’s sit-down, Yishai, who was in good spirits, said he would “do everything to protect the movement.”
“We’re going to sit down, meet, look into ways how it will be possible to work and protect the Shas movement,” he said. “I was asked to come and meet [with Deri] and here I am. I will do everything to protect the movement and to give the best service to the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Deri did not stop to address the media either before or after the meeting, but when asked as he left whether the peace would hold, he said, “absolutely, no problem.”
Yishai, addressing the press once again after the clear-the-air talks, described the meeting as positive and said: “We will do everything to work together to protect the movement.”
He added that the two had agreed to meet again.
Regarding the conflict between himself and Deri, he said that “considerations of ego must be set aside.
“A distinction must be made,” he continued, “between Eli Yishai the private individual and Eli Yishai as a public figure, the Eli Yishai of the Jewish people, Eli Yishai of Rabbi Ovadia. I will do everything with strength for the sake of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”
In reference to Deri’s public criticism of him, Yishai said that he had met with many people since and was “very surprised by the support and great warmth” directed toward him. “I say to everyone again and again that, thank God, I am strong and will continue to be so.”
A Shas insider told The Jerusalem Post that despite the tensions, he did not believe Yishai would split away from the party.
“Eli would never go against what Rav Ovadia would have wanted,” he said.
The source described the atmosphere within Shas as “very difficult” and said if the party does not unite, it will suffer very badly, electorally speaking, in the future.
He noted that there has been criticism within the party of Deri’s leadership style, and said that Deri needed to learn how to work jointly with others.
“This is not North Korea; everyone needs to have a role and feel like they are part of the movement,” he said. “The party also needs to be a bit more democratic. People within the movement have their own influence and strength and don’t want to feel like they’re being dictated to and accept decrees from above. We need to listen to people in the regional branches and take their opinions into consideration.”