Putting the Brakes on the Deri-mobile

Aryeh Deri, said Shas legal adviser David Glass, is like the most sophisticated car in the world. It is so sophisticated that it can locate in advance all the bumps in the road, and then drive over every one of them.

Aryeh Deri, said Shas legal adviser David Glass, is like the most sophisticated car in the world. It is so sophisticated that it can locate in advance all the bumps in the road, and then drive over every one of them. Glass, who is a friend of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, is one of the main supporters of Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the "stop Deri" camp.

In Yishai's camp they say that Deri has made every political mistake possible since Rabbi Yosef deposed him, and they are convinced that he will continue to make additional mistakes.

One such potential mistake, for example, could be the rally to celebrate Deri's release from prison, being planned by the Deri camp. One of the goals of such an rally is of course that, as opposed to Shas, which brought only a few thousand people to the rally on behalf of the Shas El Hama'ayan educational network on Sukkot, Deri can bring tens of thousands. Even if that happens (and that depends to a great extent on the weather and the number of terrorist attacks), it only proves that in the Deri camp they have not yet internalized the fact that the Yishai camp in Shas is headed not by Eli Yishai, but by Rabbi Yosef himself. Such as assembly will humiliate not only Yishai, but Rabbi Yosef.

Last week, Yishai came out for the first time with a sharp attack on the Deri camp. He threatened members of the camp with excommunication and a boycott, and accused Deri of leaving him a destroyed and crushed party. Yishai also made it clear that he will give Deri back the job of chair of Shas only if Rabbi Yosef instructs him to do so. It is no secret that Rabbi Yosef prefers Deri to remain as far as possible from Shas.

Yishai restrained himself for two years, and did not reply to the attacks of Deri's followers. After all, it is not honorable to attack a prisoner, and he knew that doing so would have a boomerang effect. But the closer the date of his release, the more Deri's immunity is melting away. After two years of restraint, it is hard not to detect that Yishai's followers are spoiling for a fight.

They are sure of the support of Rabbi Yosef, and therefore from their point of view, any reaction by Deri will be good. If he holds back, so much the better. If he attacks, they will accuse him of undermining Rabbi Yosef and of contempt for Torah scholars. Yishai's associates are counting on the fact that Deri, or at least his followers, will not show restraint, and will fight back. That is exactly how they behaved when their leader was deposed, proving to Rabbi Yosef that they are not loyal to him.

The working assumption in the Yishai camp is that Deri will not return to politics at this stage. Let's say that Deri were to return to the job of party chairman, they wonder in the Yishai camp, what exactly will he be responsible for? The problems of party activists in the town of Yavne? Because national policy is determined by the ministers, and Deri, because of the type of crimes for which he was sentenced [including embezzlement and perjury], cannot be a minister.

The only surprise may be Deri's support for another party. Such support means rebellion against Rabbi Yosef. Deri considers his rebellion against Rabbi Schach [the revered leader of Lithuanian Jewry who died this month] the reason for all his woes, and even begged his forgiveness at the protest rally held on the day Deri began his prison term.

With this in mind, they assume in Shas that he won't risk the anger of another important rabbi. Will Deri prefer his political career to his superstitions? At least in the short term, it seems that his superstitions will have the upper hand.

What will he do meanwhile? It's hard to believe that he'll spend all his time studying Torah, since his life would not be worth living without some political maneuver at least once a week.

Therefore, it seems that he will engage in enlisting public support. As opposed to Yishai, who will be busy in the Interior Ministry, Deri can go from one community to another, participate in events, make speeches, and of course, continue with his meteoric career as a broadcaster on illegal radio stations.

If Yishai is seen among Deri's supporters as a traitor who assumed a throne that does not belong to him, from the point of view of Yishai's followers, Deri is about to turn into an indefatigable schemer [as the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin famously described Shimon Peres].

The question is what will happen if there is a major mistake or failure on the part of Yishai - for example, a resounding defeat in the elections. Rabbi Yosef tells his associates that he is willing to lose a large percentage of Shas voters, as long as all those remaining are loyal to him. The Deri camp is convinced that when the collapse comes, if it comes, the rabbi will speak differently.