Shas Losing Base to Liebermania

When Shas decided to hitch a ride on Barack Obama's successful campaign by adopting the slogan "With God's help, yes we can" - followed by its promise du jour - it seemed like a brilliant idea, one that could easily win the party 18 seats. But that was before the war in Gaza and the stunning rise of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. Now, polls says Shas will be lucky to maintain its current 12 seats.

Throughout the campaign, Shas targeted new audiences: the middle class, secular Jews, the handicapped, Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox, unions, religious Zionists and the right in general. But toward the end, it discovered that its traditional base - lower-class, traditional Sephardim - had been overtaken by Liebermania. Shas was so busy attacking Kadima's Tzipi Livni that Lieberman sneaked in under its radar.

In a last-ditch effort to paint Lieberman as virulently anti-religious, a technique Shas used successfully against the now-defunct Shinui party, its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, warned that anyone who voted for Lieberman was committing an unforgivable sin and effectively aiding "the devil." To support this effort, the party even resurrected the revered Baba Sali from the dead: His son, the Baba Baruch, proclaimed that his father had appeared to him in a dream to warn against Lieberman.

But Shas apparently did achieve one of its goals: It successfully exploited the split within United Torah Judaism to steal votes from its Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox rival.