The Shas Council of Torah Sages Monday night rejected a request by party chairman Aryeh Deri that he be permitted to resign as chairman of the party.
The rejection was agreed at a late-night meeting, following the receipt of a letter from Deri in which he asked to be relieved of the leadership.
Deri's request was the latest bombshell in a long-running feud between Deri and former party leader Eli Yishai. It followed the release on Sunday of recordings of damning statements by the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party's founder and spiritual leader.
In his letter to the council, the spiritual leadership of Shas, Deri wrote: "The pain that pierced my heart yesterday was worse than that when [Yosef] died I decided to come before [the council] to return the responsibility that you entrusted to me.
Yishai left the party two weeks ago to found a new party, Ha’am Itanu.
In an announcement after its meeting, the council said: "The Council of Torah Sages vehemently rejects the request of Aryeh Deri to resign. We enjoin him to continue in his post with strength and dignity."
In a draft letter of support for Deri, the council wrote that they "support our friend the chairman of Shas Aryeh Deri who has given his soul to the continuation of these holy endeavors – the fortification of the wall of religion in the State of Israel, listening to the cry of the poor and acting against the harsh decrees."
In one of the tapes, which reportedly were leaked to the media by Yishai – though Yishai denies it – Yosef is heard saying that he only replaced Yishai with Deri as party leader due to heavy pressure.
In a clip from 2008, reported by Channel 2, Ovadia can be heard disparaging Deri: “Thirty, 40 percent will run away from us. Why? Since the court judged him. Why did you take a thief? Why did you take a bribe taker? Thirty to 40 percent will not remain, they will flee. Why? Why should we do that? No one has anything on Yishai,” Yosef said to his confidantes.
He also called Deri "too independent” and accusing Deri of not listening to him. Yosef also said Deri would betray Yishai.
Yosef also said about Deri, “Take a different party, make a different movement. What do I care? He can form a new movement.”
Deri responded to the tapes on Sunday by saying that Yishai was trampling the rabbi's honor "for his petty personal interests ... he betrayed the trust the rabbi placed in him.”
Earlier on Monday, Shas stepped up the battle against Yishai, unveiling a campaign to honor Ovadia Yosef's legac.
The campaign launched Monday is called "Father, what have they done to you?!" and is meant to "restore" the memory of Rabbi Ovadia.
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