Shas: Election Opens Door for Social-affairs Issues

But the head of the ultra-Orthodox party, Aryeh Deri, insists no deal has been made to form a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud after a vote.

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Arye Dery speaks at a service marking the one-year anniversary of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's death, September 28, 2014.
Arye Dery speaks at a service marking the one-year anniversary of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's death, September 28, 2014. Credit: Emil Salman

The head of Israel’s largest ultra-Orthodox party said Tuesday a new election would give voters a chance to choose parties focusing on social affairs that will “do things for the public.”

After an election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might replace Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party in the governing coalition with what many Israelis consider his more natural partners — the ultra-Orthodox parties.

“I welcome the fact that we’re going to elections. It’s about time we replaced this arrogant and cavalier government that’s preoccupied with itself,” Shas leader Aryeh Deri told a press conference in Ashdod.

“Two weeks ago I declared my two ironclad conditions that must be met or Shas will not join any government – reducing VAT on staple items and a minimum wage of 30 shekels [$7.66] an hour. I was pleased to read in this morning’s paper that the prime minister thinks as we do – that ... the high cost of living must be reduced. Too bad he hasn’t done anything about it over the past five years.”

At the press conference, Deri also addressed the leaders of two key centrist parties, Lapid and Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni. “Let’s conduct an election campaign focused on social discourse and not a discourse of hate,” he said. “Let’s do something for the people and bring down the cost of living.”

Deri added that Shas had made no deal with any party for after an election; he said the only deal would be with “whoever agrees to my two ironclad conditions for the benefit of all Israel.”

Deri was responding to rumors that Shas and another ultra-Orthodox party — United Torah Judaism — had sealed an agreement with Netanyahu that triggered an early election.

On Tuesday, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), reiterated that his party had made no deal.

Still, since the Gaza war, Netanyahu and the Ultra-Orthodox parties have been repairing relations that were severely strained following the government’s efforts to cut funding for yeshivas and draft more ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, into the army.

Both Shas and United Torah Judaism have been part of the opposition since the January 2013 election. On Tuesday, Lapid accused Netanyahu of “opting to pay the Haredi parties out of the pockets of the Israeli middle class.”

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