Deri Drops Bid to Become Mayor of Jerusalem

Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri dropped out of the race for Jerusalem mayor yesterday, deciding not to appeal Thursday's court decision rejecting his request to run. Deri had hoped the court would overlook the moral turpitude involved in his bribery conviction in 2000.

His decision comes slightly more than a month after announcing his intention to run for mayor of the capital.

"I consulted over the last few days with the great rabbis of the generation, with jurists, with my friends and family, and I reached the conclusion that the [Jerusalem] District Court decision actually brings to an end the possibility that I will be a candidate for mayor in the upcoming Jerusalem elections," Deri said in a statement.

Deri said he was "deeply disappointed" by the decision, which he said shattered his dream. Nonetheless, some of Deri's associates were claiming victory because the past month showed that the former Shas leader is capable of returning to the public consciousness. They say the municipal tussle has paved the way for his next foray into politics, presumably national politics.

In 35 days Deri managed to erase his nine-year absence from politics. He got the green light from the two most important spiritual leaders in ultra-Orthodox politics - Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv - who were depicted in the past months as practically having had to drag him back into politics.

The move placed Deri solidly in the ultra-Orthodox consensus, and it's doubtful a Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox candidate has been able to excite Ashkenazi wheeler-dealers so much, even if their main goal was to take revenge on Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox candidate Meir Porush.

The ultra-Orthodox consensus on Deri is expected to pay off soon, his associates say, and the encouragement he received from the Shas spiritual leader appears likely to remain a threat to current party chairman Eli Yishai.

In his statement yesterday, Deri thanked both rabbis for "the confidence they placed in me and the mission they gave me," and said he was sorry not to have had the privilege of carrying it out.