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
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
What would bring Shas back into government? Nothing less than a complete
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
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
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
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
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
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
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