Haaretz, Sunday, September 3, 2000


                                                                  Sunday, September 3, 2000


                        Will Deri still have any role to play?

                        By Shahar Ilan
                        Ha'aretz Religious Affairs Correspondent

                        Aryeh Deri was not why Shas pulled out of the government, and in any case his trip to
                        jail will not bring Shas back.

                        Shas left the coalition when its chairman Eli Yishai lost hope that Prime Minister Ehud
                        Barak would alter his attitude to the ultra-Orthodox party, and when he concluded that
                        Shas would gain nothing by staying in government. Yishai opted to place himself outside
                        government for any moment a peace agreement, with compromises on Jerusalem, might
                        be signed.

                        What would bring Shas back into government? Nothing less than a complete reversal of
                        Barak's attitude toward them will do - including abandoning the "civil revolution,"
                        rehabilitating the Shas education system plan, and involving the party in the peace

                        Probably, this will not happen. For now, Yishai is waiting.

                        He is waiting for a peace agreement with the Palestinians. One Israel would probably try
                        to get a referendum vote approved in the Knesset, and would seek the support of Shas. In
                        the party, they say, they do not discount lending Barak a hand - it depends on the kind of
                        peace agreement Barak brings them.

                        He is waiting for Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein to decide whether to indict former
                        prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was investigated for fraud. Like Barak and
                        Likud chairman Ariel Sharon, Yishai can only lose from Netanyahu returning to power.
                        In fact he may find Barak doing his best to keep prisoner Deri in the picture with
                        Netanyahu around. Yishai's eternal dilemma is Deri. A coalition with Netanyahu and his
                        "anti-elite" group, which sympathizes with Deri, is problematic. So is a coalition with
                        Barak and Sarid, whose elites are not only a problem but go out of their way to oppose

                        He is waiting for new elections - that was one of the reasons Shas pulled out of the
                        coalition. However, the longer Barak proves able to survive because the Knesset cannot
                        gather 61 votes in favor of new elections, the possibility increases that Yishai will want
                        back in.

                        The real battle in Shas will begin the minute the key turns behind Deri in prison. No
                        longer will the issue of being in the coalition hold center stage in Shas, but whether Deri
                        still has any role on that stage.

                        Deri supporters hope the "Day of Imprisonment" protests will continue into the future.
                        For the new leadership in Shas, such protests are a nightmare. Most likely, Yishai will cut
                        off funding for these activities after tomorrow, and carry on his quiet but consistent
                        efforts to take over all institutions within Shas.

                        When Deri gives interviews suggesting that grassroots activities may be more effective
                        than any within religious parties, he may be preparing the ground for an alliance with
                        Netanyahu and Lieberman.

                        Last week, it became evident that Deri has returned once more to the path of spiritual
                        leadership - particularly evident in his speech during last Thursday's rally when he broke
                        into Shabbat chants three times.

                        That is the option for a religious man who is barred from active political posts for the
                        next 12 years. Secular politicians become businessmen. Deri will become a spiritual

to visit the international English edition of Haaretz click here