Eli Yishai’s Mentor Seeks Meeting With Shas Leader Deri

Not yet clear whether the goal is a full reconciliation, or simply an attempt to forge a non-compete agreement.

Emil Salman

Former Shas chairman Eli Yishai’s spiritual mentor on Monday sought to arrange a three-way meeting between himself, Yishai and current Shas chairman Aryeh Deri. But it’s not yet clear whether the goal is a full reconciliation, or simply an attempt to forge a non-compete agreement in which Shas and Yishai’s new party will avoid targeting each other in their campaigns.

Yishai’s associates insisted that reconciliation isn’t on the agenda, and the goal is simply to prevent a mud-slinging war between the two parties. Rabbi Meir Mazuz, who issued the invitation, also said that Yishai’s party, Ha’am Itanu, is determined to run independently in the March election.

But Shas sources termed the invitation a sign that “Rabbi Mazuz blinked first.”

Yishai’s associates have been arguing for days that Ha’am Itanu won’t take votes away from Shas, and one told Haaretz that to avoid opening a new front against Shas, Yishai won’t allow any sitting Shas MKs to run on his ticket.

But despite the conciliatory tone of Mazuz’s invitation, the war between the parties is still heating up. Shas is collecting signatures of Sephardi rabbis for a letter to be published in the coming days in which the rabbis declare Shas the only legitimate heir of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party’s revered founder.

Yishai, meanwhile, was encouraged by a new poll published Monday that showed him winning four seats, compared to five for Shas. Other polls have shown him not winning enough seats to make it into the Knesset.