Text size

The Shas campaign planners are now hoping and waiting for vehement and blunt attacks on their party - the more hostile, patronizing and focused, the better - from other parties. In Shas, they're pretty happy about the talk in Shinui of getting "more mandates than Shas." That kind of statement, they say in Shas, is a wonderful provocation of our constituency. If Shas doesn't find anything more vituperative against them, that line will become the "Nash Kontrol" of the coming elections, the means by which the Sephardi-traditional public will be united against all the others - the Ashkenazim, the immigrants, the goyim, the elites.

The question is not whether the hatred between Shas and the rest of the political spectrum will flourish during the elections, and if the ethnic, and other, genies will be let out of the bottles.

The question is only how much hatred and how many demons. On that score, Shas and Shinui are Siamese wins, with the hatred and demons only adding up to more votes for both parties.

But from a lot of other aspects, the Shas campaign is crippled. For the first time in a decade it doesn't have its natural enemies - the rule of law and the law enforcement authorities - to battle.

Those who impeached Aryeh Deri and threw him to the dogs can't complain about those who put him on trial. Shas does have Shlomo Benizri to claim he's being persecuted, but he isn't as popular as Deri, and his complaint can't be turned into political capital.

In these circumstances, Shas only has second-rate enemies, with whom it will be difficult to get past the 10-mandate mark. Shinui, particularly its chairman Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, will serve as proxies for the elites, Sheinkin Street, the liberals and the rest of the irreverent.

This week, the house songster, Benny Elbaz, remembered for his "Deri's innocent" tune, was brought into the campaign with a new song: "We won't let Tommy destroy yeshivas, we wont let Tommy tear the nation."

Shas will make capital out of the coming Hannuka festival. "Those with God are with me," the Shas people will declare and define Lapid and company as Hellenists. It's still not clear if they'll hand out little bottles of holy oil, but it is clear they will repeat their Torah writing campaign, with people buying letters in a new Torah. It will help the party update its lists of hundreds of thousands of potential supporters.

The ethnic campaign against the immigrants will be revived, but Shas will focus this time on the non-Jewish immigrants. The campaign began with incitement by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Saturday night, at his weekly sermon. "Shas is the movement that is stopping bringing goyim here; they (the seculars) are bringing goyim, they want to balance between the Haredim and the goyim.

They want to balance, to make sure they stay in power, so the Haredim don't get into power. So we have to stop them."

The message will be clear: it's not Jews who are getting benefits from the state, it's not Jews who are taking away jobs, it's not Jews who are building churches in the Holy Land, and it's not Jews who are marrying Jewish girls. Christmas and its trees will play a role in the Shas campaign, a great background for the incitement. It's still not clear if the campaign against non-Jews will extend to the foreign workers.

A main problem facing Shas is the fact that Eli Yishai, by nature, seeks compromise and moderation. Will Yishai be able to efficiently incite, sow hatred and division? It's talent that the adored Deri had in abundance.

The answer is so far unknown. What is certain is that the amount of hatred Yishai sows will greatly influence the number of mandates he gets for Shas.

Shas' real opponents, of course, are to be found elsewhere - the Likud, the extreme right wing and United Torah Judaism. But Shas has a long tradition of inciting against the left, hoping to take voters away from right wing and religious parties. If there's one element Shas really doesn't want to clash with, it's the Likud. For years it has managed to hide the fact it was growing at the Likud's expense, and the Likud didn't understand how dangerous Shas was to its own stature.

So this time, Shas will give a bear hug to the Likud. It will be seen in slogans like "Yesha is Shas," a reference to the huge amounts of money funneled to the settlements from Shas-controlled ministries, and "Shas equals Likud twice." But de facto, the factor that determines whether there's a heads-on battle between Likud and Shas will be the Likud, which will obviously try to do everything possible to make clear to voters that it's a one-ballot election, and the ballot better be Likud and not Shas. It's difficult to say if Shas will be dragged into such a fight or restrain itself, since any tension in the relationship will play into the Likud's hands and prove the argument that Shas is not the Likud's ally, but its competitor.