Deri's Mediation in Immanuel Affair Paving Way for ex-Shas Leader's Return to Politics

Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri's efforts to work out a compromise in the Immanuel affair have marked him as a politician with a future: According to a Channel 2 survey reported yesterday, if Deri establishes a rival party to Shas, it will win seven Knesset seats.

Aryeh Deri
Tess Scheflan / Jini

Shas, to which the survey's respondents awarded 10 Knesset seats if Deri does not establish his own party, would lose two of those seats if he did.

The survey also indicates that a new Deri-led party would also erode support for Likud, predicting that Likud would have 33 seats if Deri does not run, and 31 if he does. The survey also predicts that Kadima would fall from 28 seats to 27 if Deri were to run.

Two parties would be unaffected by a possible Deri comeback: Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor, with 12 and 8 seats respectively.

Deri entered the Immanuel fray after the High Court of Justice imposed a two-week jail sentence on the parents who refused the court's order to send their girls to the same classes with Sephardic girls at the West Bank town's Beit Yaakov school.

In an attempt to keep the parents out of jail, Deri proposed shortening the school year and opening a summer camp for all the girls. He criticized the High Court's intervention in the case, and told Haaretz in an interview that Haredi "ministers and deputy ministers" should take responsibility in the affair.

Neither Yoav Laloum, leader of the organization that petitioned the High Court, nor the Slonim Hassidic sect that opposes desegregation of the school, accepted Deri's proposals. However, the media and the political system picked up on them.

Deri, who was convicted of bribery and went to jail for 22 months in September 2000, was prohibited from running for public office for 10 years because his offense incurred moral turpitude.

In November 2008 his bid to run for mayor of Jerusalem was rejected, but last year, the prohibition against his running for office was lifted. Deri has mentioned several times since then that he intended to return to politics.

It is hard to picture Deri facing off against Shas in any election as long as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef remains the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party. Thus Deri is believed to be seeking other ways to join politics without seeming to fight Shas.

The results of a telephone poll by ultra-Orthodox Sephardic radio station Kol Barama of more than 3,300 Shas-supporting listeners should be disturbing to the party, which came out against Laloum, the High Court petitioner in the Immanuel case. Of those polled, 49 percent said they supported Laloum and 48 percent said they opposed him.