Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri Formally Resigns From Knesset

Eli Yishai denies leaking the footage of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef speaking negatively about Deri.

Knesset Spokesperson

Shas chairman, Aryeh Deri submitted his resignation from the Knesset Tuesday evening, following the release on Sunday of recordings of damning statements by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party's founder and spiritual leader. One of Deri's associates told Haaretz that Deri is not sharing his future plans with party officials. In addition, all current Shas MKs also submitted letters of resignation on Tuesday evening.

MK Eli Yishai, who recently left Shas to form his own party, spoke about allegations that he was responsible for leaking the footage. "That is not my way," said Yishai, adding "they said I should ask for forgiveness, but those same people who acted against the will of Maran [deceased Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef] are the ones who should ask for forgiveness."

According to law, Deri can change his mind and revoke his resignation papers within 48 hours. His associates told Haaretz that an overwhelming show of support might persuade him to do so. Even if Deri does quit the Knesset, it is unclear if Deri will head the party's list for the Knesset or if he will even appear on the list at all.

Earlier on Tuesday, MK Moshe Gafni (Degel HaTorah) called on Deri not to take any irreversible actions, saying "We have a commitment to the ultra-Orthodox community."

As a part of the attempts to persuade Deri to remain in the Knesset and lead Shas in the elections, his supporters set up a camp outside his Jerusalem home.

On Monday, the Shas Council of Torah Sages Monday night rejected a request by Deri that he be permitted to resign as chairman of the party. The rejection was agreed at a late-night meeting, following the receipt of a letter from Deri in which he asked to be relieved of the leadership.

In an announcement after its meeting, the council said: "The Council of Torah Sages vehemently rejects the request of Aryeh Deri to resign. We enjoin him to continue in his post with strength and dignity."

Olivier Fitoussi

In one of the tapes, which reportedly were leaked to the media by Yishai – though Yishai denies it – Yosef is heard saying that he only replaced Yishai with Deri as party leader due to heavy pressure.

In a clip from 2008, reported by Channel 2, Ovadia can be heard disparaging Deri: “Thirty, 40 percent will run away from us. Why? Since the court judged him. Why did you take a thief? Why did you take a bribe taker? Thirty to 40 percent will not remain, they will flee. Why? Why should we do that? No one has anything on Yishai,” Yosef said to his confidantes.

He also called Deri "too independent” and accusing Deri of not listening to him. Yosef also said Deri would betray Yishai.

Yosef also said about Deri, “Take a different party, make a different movement. What do I care? He can form a new movement.”

Deri responded to the tapes on Sunday by saying that Yishai was trampling the rabbi's honor "for his petty personal interests ... he betrayed the trust the rabbi placed in him.”

Earlier on Monday, Shas stepped up the battle against Yishai, unveiling a campaign to honor Ovadia Yosef's legac.

The campaign launched Monday is called "Father, what have they done to you?!" and is meant to "restore" the memory of Rabbi Ovadia.