Kristine L Ming

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

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.

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

On his way to Wednesday’s sit-down, Yishai, who was in good
spirits, said he would “do everything to protect the movement.”

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.”

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

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

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