Yishai to stay in Knesset, ‘give Deri headaches’

Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai reacts after being fired last week by mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Deri and Yishai at Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Deri and Yishai at Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai is unlikely to accept the job of chairman of the party’s El Hama’ayan education system, which Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef offered him after firing him last week, according to loyalists of Yishai who spoke to him over the weekend.
Yishai’s supporters said he felt betrayed by Yosef, whom he served loyally as Shas chairman for nearly 14 years until the rabbi decided to appoint MK Arye Deri in his place on Thursday.
Yishai said on that day that he would need 10 days to decide his future.
“Eli thought that because he never manipulated the rabbi, this could never happen to him,” a Yishai associate said. “He thought Deri would run for mayor of Jerusalem and let him remain chairman of the party.”
While one Yishai loyalist said the ex-party chairman would take the El Hama’ayan job if he were given a full mandate without interference, another said Yishai considered the job too much work and noted that he already ran the school system in the mid-1990s before he became an MK.
A consensus of Yishai’s associates said he would not leave the Knesset, where he will maintain his influence and try to “give Deri headaches.”
Another possibility floated by Yishai loyalists is that he run for Jerusalem mayor. But his poor relations with United Torah Judaism strongman Ya’acov Litzman and the Bayit Yehudi party would make that option unlikely.
After Yishai failed to show up to the daily prayer service at Yosef’s house, his longtime confidant, MK Nissim Ze’ev, called to console him.
“I tried to strengthen Eli, who has accepted his fate despite the pain,” Ze’ev said.
Deri already held a working meeting with Shas officials on Friday. Speaking to reporters outside his home that morning, he sent an olive branch to Yishai and vowed to do everything in his power to serve party constituents.
“Our first priority will be serving the public,” Deri said.
“We will see the citizens as our bosses that we serve. That is our mission. We will be in the field and we will get all our branches working for the people.”